St Vincent Prime Minister reiterates opposition to CBI programs

Recent restrictions having an impact along with the realization that these programs attract a lot of vagabonds and criminals and people who want to use their money to escape the extent of scrutiny.”:

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves has reiterated his government’s position regarding the Citizenship by Investment Program (CBI), saying legislative moves in the United States and European Union recently, show that his administration’s position on the program is correct.

Under the CBI, foreign investors are afforded citizenship of a country in return for making a significant investment in the socio-economic development of the particular country. Several Caribbean countries have instituted CBI programs.

Gonsalves said the United States has moved to decline visas to holders of passports obtained by CBI and the European Union has passed a law giving countries three years to phase out the program or face visa requirements for all its passports holders.

He said there is a bipartisan move in the US Congress, with a Republican and a Democrat introducing a bill “to clamp down on these what they call golden passports, passports, which you get through citizenship by investment, selling the passport, selling the citizenship.”

Prime Minister Gonsalves said the law took “a little bit further” what was being done administratively.

“If you buy your passport, buy your citizenship, the Americans had taken a decision administratively not to give you any visa.”

He said where someone who obtains a passport from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts-Nevis, or St Lucia through CBI can travel visa-free to the United Kingdom and the EU, “the United States has practically closed the door.”

Gonsalves said Canada has done so to some extent “because Canada even though you have to apply for visas, a few of them who have purchased passports, they got into Canada.”

Gonsalves said some European Union countries including Bulgaria, Malta, and Cyprus also have CBI programs.

“The Russian yacht which had come down here, that Russian came here on a passport from Cyprus. But he was not sanctioned.”

The superyacht “Anna” docked in Kingstown on March 4, with its owner, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, onboard and purchased 40,000 gallons of fuel before setting sail one day later.

Gonsalves said Rybolovlev was not under sanctions as both the US and Europe imposed measures following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He further said a resolution was passed in the European Parliament directing the European Commission to ban “golden passports.

“You can go online on the European Parliament website and find this particular resolution, this text which was adopted and basically what it says that they are given the countries three years, between now and 2025,

“You have one of two choices: you abolish citizenship by investment, you abolish the selling of passports and citizenship by 2025, and they give you three years for you to gradually phase it out. You ain’t supposed to do any new program.”

“All Antiguans, all Grenadians, all Kittians, all St. Lucians, all Dominicans, would lose entry into Europe, and the United Kingdom is planning the same thing. So, if you want to go to France where you can go there now without a visa, you will require a visa,” Gonsalves said.

The EU Parliament has called for an EU “levy of a meaningful percentage on the investments made – until ‘golden passports’ are phased out, and indefinitely for ‘golden visas’” within the block.

“It also asks the Commission to put pressure on third countries that benefit from visa-free travel to the EU to follow suit,” according to the website.

The resolution passed by the parliament with 595 votes to 12 and 74 abstentions says golden passports should be phased out fully.

At least 130,000 people benefitted from CBI/RBI schemes in the EU from 2011 to 2019, generating revenues of over Euro 21.8 billion (One Euro=US$1.29 cents) for the countries concerned.

Gonsalves warned that if Britain, which is not a member of the European Union, “does the same way like the Europeans, it puts everybody into trouble by not having the visa; just like how Canada cut off theirs.

“But additionally, who’s going to buy your passport if you can’t get in any way visa-free?”

Gonsalves recalled that the CBI program had been a major issue in the 2015 and 2020 general elections.

The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) supports a CBI program for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“And, you know, the position that I take on citizenship by investment… That is the glamorous name for selling citizenship and selling passports. A rose by another name, or, as the case may be, a pit toilet by any other name,” Gonsalves said, adding that he has always maintained that in principle and practice, CBI “is a mistake.”

He said in principle, a country “mustn’t sell our instruments of nationhood.

“Citizenship is the highest office in the land, higher than the prime minister, higher than governor general. It’s not a commodity for sale. And the passport is the outward sign of the inward grace of citizenship and that, too, is not for sale. You have heard me on that mantra, over and over again.”

He said that in practice, CBI is not sustainable.

“And in any case, it is bringing a lot of vagabonds and criminals and people who want to use their money to escape the extent of scrutiny.”

Source: St Vincent Prime Minister reiterates opposition to CBI programs

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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