Activists ‘outraged’ at decision to grant citizenship to investors | Jordan Times

Money trumps gender equality:

Activists on Tuesday lashed back at a Cabinet decision a day earlier to grant investors Jordanian citizenship or permanent residency, claiming that the decision was discriminatory and ignored their long-time demands to allow Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians to pass on their citizenship to their spouses and children.

The Cabinet on Monday set several conditions for individuals seeking to obtain Jordanian citizenship, including a zero-interest, five-year $1.5 million deposit at the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ), or buying treasury bonds valued the same amount at an interest rate to be decided by CBJ and for a period of no less than 10 years.

“This is a provocative decision by the government that allows foreign individuals to obtain Jordanian nationality based on their financial means, while bluntly denying this right to Jordanian women,” said lawyer Noor Imam.

This decision “also comes in favour of rich women, who can now invest and obtain citizenship while the poor do not have this privilege”, Imam told The Jordan Times.

Activists and families of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians have repeatedly demanded full citizenship rights for their children and spouses.

As it stands now, Jordanian men married to non-Jordanian women can pass on their citizenship to their wives and children, a right that is denied to Jordanian women married to foreigners.

Activist Laila Naffa agreed with Imam, saying that “this step should eliminate all the excuses the government has been giving to the women’s movement to deny the right of citizenship to families of Jordanian women who choose to marry a foreigner”.

Government officials on Tuesday defended the decision as conducive to investment.

Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications and Government Spokesperson Mohammad Momani said the decision is meant to encourage investment in the Kingdom and boost the national economy.

“Children of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians have been granted same treatment and privileges to Jordanians to ease up their lives and this decision to encourage investment will be to the interest of their families as part of the Jordanian society,” Momani told The Jordan Times.

The minister stressed that “this decision only aims to support the economy and eventually everyone will benefit from this step, including Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians and their children”.

“The government is always giving excuses in this case, such as wanting to protect the sovereignty of the country, but now they opened the door to anyone who has money to obtain citizenship except the families of Jordanian women who are married to non-Jordanians,” Naffa stated.

She stressed the priority should be given to “these women who are loyal to Jordan and have raised their children to also be loyal to the state”.

Naffa said that Jordan “missed an important opportunity with its decision to give investors citizenship when they could have taken advantage of the decision to announce the same for Jordanian women instead of discriminating against them”.

Tamkeen Fields for Aid’s (TFA) Director Linda Kalash, said: “The decision for investment is good, but the priority should go to the Jordanian women, and citizenship should not be granted based on financial purposes”.

“This is really outrageous and frustrating. Why can’t Jordanian women pass citizenship to their families like the investors?” Kalash told The Jordan Times.

In 2014, the government pledged to ensure the proper application of the “privileges” the government had granted to children of Jordanian women, provided that their mothers had been living in Jordan for a minimum of five years, for at least 180 days per year.

Some of the “privileges” included providing residency permits, the ability to apply for driving licences and real-estate ownership, as well as the availing of benefits in the educational, health, labour and investment sectors.

However, activists and campaign organisers continued to voice concerns that the government did not fully respect its promises, claiming they are still suffering on many fronts from discrimination and complicated governmental procedures when it comes to issuing the documents as promised.

Individuals and entities, who oppose granting citizenship to family members of these women, particularly those with Palestinian husbands, say such a measure will only lead Israel to implement its “ultimate plan of creating a substitute homeland for Palestinians in Jordan”.

Government figures show that there are 88,983 Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians, mostly Gazans, with 355,932 children within these families registered with the Civil Status and Passports Department.

Palestinians, except Gazans, who became refugees after the creation of Israel on Palestinian land, and those who were living in the West Bank when it was occupied by Israel in 1967, have been granted Jordanian citizenship.

via Activists ‘outraged’ at decision to grant citizenship to investors | Jordan Times

OECD warns citizenship by investment programs used to circumvent taxes | Cayman Compass

About time:

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has issued a consultation document (Consultation document – Preventing abuse of residence schemes to circumvent the CRS – warned of the potential abuse of “residence by investment” or “citizenship by investment” schemes. These schemes allow foreign individuals to obtain citizenship or temporary or permanent residence rights in exchange for local investments or against a flat fee.

While investors may be interested in these for legitimate reasons, including greater mobility because of visa-free travel, better education and job opportunities for children, or the right to live in a country with political stability, there is the potential for misuse, the Paris-based organization said.

An OECD disclosure facility that enables the public to share arrangements designed to avoid tax reporting under the common reporting standards produced information indicating that RBI and CBI schemes are used to circumvent CRS reporting.

The now-issued consultation document assesses how the schemes are used to avoid reporting. It identifies the types of schemes that present a high risk of abuse and it reminds stakeholders of correctly applying CRS due diligence procedures to prevent the abuse.

While the schemes generally do not offer a solution to escape the legal scope of CRS reporting, because they do not provide tax residence or affect tax residence in another country, they can potentially be exploited to undermine the CRS due diligence procedures, the document noted.

This scenario could arise, for example, if an individual does not live in the relevant jurisdictions but claims to be a resident there for tax purposes and supports the claim by providing his financial institution with documents such as a certificate of residence, passport or utility bills.

The schemes that are most susceptible, according to the paper, are those in low or no tax jurisdictions and those that do not impose or only have limited requirements to be physically present in the jurisdiction.

The OECD is seeking public input to obtain further evidence on the misuse of CBI/RBI schemes and on effective ways for preventing such abuse.

The consultation closes on March 19. The responses will be taken into account in determining the next steps that will be taken, the OECD said.

Countries with well-established citizenship-by-investment programs include Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, as well as Cyprus, Malta, the U.K., and the U.S. among others.

via OECD warns citizenship by investment programs used to circumvent taxes | Cayman Compass

GOP Ignores Scandals, Keeps Funding U.S. Citizenship-for-Investment Visa – Breitbart

Sometimes there are nuggets in Breitbart:

The scandal-plagued EB-5 visa, which allows foreign investors and their families to essentially buy U.S. citizenship, is continuing to be funded by the Republican-controlled Congress.

Under the EB-5 visa, wealthy foreign nationals can claim that they will invest at least $500,000 and thus receive Green Cards for their family for at least two years, with pathways to citizenship available as well. The only requirement is that the EB-5 holder creates ten U.S. jobs. Currently, 10,000 foreign nationals and their families are allowed to enter the U.S. every year on the EB-5 visa.

Despite the visa program being a magnet for corruption and scandal, the Republican-backed budget that averts a shut down of the federal government continues funding the program.

Less than a month ago, five companies with Vermont’s Jay Peak resort developments reached a settlement after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused resort owner Ariel Quiros of embezzling tens of millions of dollars by using the EB-5 visa.

The SEC accuses Jay Peak owner Ariel Quiros of embezzling tens of millions of dollars from foreign investors using the controversial EB-5 visa program, through which foreigners, usually Chinese, can obtain U.S. green cards if they invest $500,000 in certain American-based projects. Since 2008, it is alleged Quiros took more than $50 million dollars of the $350 million he raised from EB-5-seeking foreigners for his own personal expenses, in effect using the promise of U.S. permanent residency to run a massive “ponzi-type” investment fraud.

The SEC seized Jay Peak’s assets as they brought suit against Quiros in 2016, alleging he was using EB-5 investor funds to “(1) Finance his purchase of the Jay Peak resort; (2) back a personal line of credit to pay his income taxes; (3) purchase a luxury condominium; (4) pay taxes of a company he owns; and (5) buy an unrelated resort.”

Wednesday’s settlement involved five contractors who worked with Quiros on the water park at Jay Peak: Black River Design Architects PLC; DEW Construction Corp.; VHV Co.; FabricAir Inc.; and Ramaker and Associates Inc. According to Law360, the companies deny wrongdoing but agreed to settle the case for $45,000 each.

In 2016, Breitbart News reported on an EB-5 visa fraud case where a wealthy Chinese national was able to land an EB-5 visa by promising to invest in a New York development, but then allegedly ended up using the investment money on personal expenses like buying a boat, a luxury car, and a home.

Last year, Breitbart News reported how investment firms are now pushing the EB-5 visa in India, trying to get wealthy Indian nationals to promise an investment in order to gain U.S. citizenship for themselves and their family.

When wealthy foreign investors come to the U.S. on the EB-5 visa, it only takes them two years of being in the country before they and their families can apply for permanent legal residency. From there, they can later apply for U.S. citizenship and become naturalized citizens.

Critics of the EB-5 visa, like Center for Immigration Studies analyst David North, who has testified before Congress on the corruption involved in the EB-5 process, says the visa is a way for U.S. citizenship to essentially be sold.

via GOP Ignores Scandals, Keeps Funding U.S. Citizenship-for-Investment Visa – Breitbart

Barbadan distress at investment citizenship • Caribbean Life

A sensible voice in the region on the risks of citizenship-by-investment programs. Note the link to the criminal marketplace, AlphaBay and its founder, Alexandre Cazes:

The recent arrival in Barbados of two persons who exercised their CARICOM rights to a prolonged stay on the island, obtained through a member state’s Citizenship by Investment programme has Prime Minister Freundel Stuart uneasy.

The Barbadian leader has reported that the persons, who are nationals of non-Caribbean countries took advantage of a Citizenship by Investment programme offered in a CARICOM member country to obtain passports of that territory and exercised their right to remain in Barbados for least six months without question as guaranteed under the CARICOM Freedom of Movement convention.

Stuart over the last weekend spoke of the powerless position that local immigration authority found itself in when the two opted to remain on the island after the United States Embassy in Barbados, that covers the entire Eastern Caribbean, refused their applications for visas to travel to the United States.

“The American Embassy turned down the applications for the visas, but the persons involved said ‘we are not going back to where we came from, we have a right to six months stay in Barbados and we want to stay here under our six months stay under the Freedom of Movement regime,’” Stuart said.

Stuart said that the distress brought upon Barbados because of the uncertainty of motive these two CARICOM ‘nationals’ who are not welcomed in the United States is precisely what he has been fighting against when in the past he objected to the citizenship based on investment programmes offered by sister territories.

“I have fought them [heads of governments] at CARICOM over those programmes … because I say to them, when you grant these people citizenship of your country and Barbados is not a part of the transaction, those people become CARICOM citizens and have, based on our Freedom of Movement arrangements, the right to come into Barbados when they like and how they like although we don’t know them,” he said.

“In some cases the persons who are granted citizenship do not have to even come to the country in order to get citizenship or to be able to get a passport,” Stuart noted.

The Barbados prime minister’s outcry Sunday was purely on security grounds because he said he was not unsympathetic to the economic needs of CARICOM nations.

“That is what is going on in the Caribbean because all the countries of the Caribbean are under pressure,” he said, adding, “those programmes keep them [the CARICOM territories] going and allow them to pay their bills from day to day.”

“I have sat as head of government of Barbados at many regional CARICOM meetings and heard their leaders say that if they were not selling their citizenship, if they were not selling passports their countries would be basket cases.”

Stuart refrained from naming the original country of those two persons who received citizenship within CARICOM for money but hinted that, “you have to catch about six or seven different airplanes to get to where they came from.”

Stuart’s revelation of his country’s unease with the legal presence of two suspect persons comes against the backdrop of reports out of Antigua of a now deceased 25-year-old man who obtained Antiguan and Barbudan citizenship in February 2017 being alleged to have masterminded the largest criminal marketplace on the Internet, AlphaBay.

The Antigua Observed newspaper a week ago reported that, “Alexandre Cazes, who with his wife obtained citizenship through the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), allegedly ran the dark website which the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said was used to sell deadly illegal drugs, stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms, and toxic chemicals throughout the world.”

“US Attorney General Jeff Sessions hailed the move to shut AlphaBay as the largest darknet shut down in history, and the DOJ is now turning part of its attention to seizing Cazes’ property, including Villa 302 at Nonsuch Bay Condominiums in St. Phillip’s South, Antigua which he purchased under the CIP,” the Observer also stated.

Source: Bajan distress at investment citizenship • Caribbean Life

Passports for Sale – CBS News

Follow-up interview to CBS’s 60 Minute exposé of citizenship-by-investment schemes. Long article but interviews revealing:

It’s provided St. Kitts and Nevis with hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure projects, private development, and tourism but a lot of the money is unaccounted for. More than 10,000 people have purchased citizenship here, but it’s almost impossible to tell who they are because the information is not public. Chris Kalin doesn’t like the words citizenship for cash, or any suggestion that all you need is money to get a passport.

Chris Kalin: You have to go through a process. You have to apply. And you have to answer a million questions. And you have to undergo a background verification. And you have, at least in the properly run programs, you have to be a reputable person. And that’s checked.

But evidently, not that carefully. About the only way to identify people who have purchased St. Kitts citizenship is if they’ve happened to turn up on a list of international fugitives or gotten in trouble with the law, and St. Kitts and Nevis has had more than its share for two sleepy, little islands. Its passport holders have included a Canadian penny stock manipulator… a Russian wanted for bribery… a Kazak wanted for embezzlement… two Ukrainians suspected of bribing a U.N. official… and two Chinese women wanted for financial crimes.

Chris Kalin: I think it’s no secret that these islands have made decisions that are not always optimal.

Steve Kroft: They’ve taken some bozos, as you would call them?

Chris Kalin: Yes, exactly.

Steve Kroft: What about crooks?

Chris Kalin: Yes. It’s goes all the way down to crooks, yeah, absolutely. And it tended for some time to attract quite a few people that I would never let into the country. But I’m not the government of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Steve Kroft: But you set up their program.

Chris Kalin: We helped to set up the program. But, you know, as it is, advisers advise, ministers decide.

The island nation drew the ire of the U.S. Treasury Department three years ago after three suspected Iranian operatives were caught using their St. Kitts passports to launder money for banks in Tehran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It also had to recall more than 5,000 passports because they either didn’t include a place of birth or were issued to people who had changed their names. Since then a number of reforms have been made, but questions remain.

Peter Vincent: They’re not transparent programs. There are not safeguards in place.

Until 2014, Peter Vincent was the top legal adviser for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the department of Homeland Security, which he says is well aware of all the vulnerabilities. In fact, before General John F. Kelly became secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, he expressed concern in a 2015 report that “cash for passport programs could be exploited by criminals, terrorists or other nefarious actors.”

Steve Kroft: Does that present a security threat, do you think?

Peter Vincent: It does. In my opinion, the global community has established a very effective global security architecture to prevent terrorist attacks. I see these cash for citizenship programs as a gaping hole in that security architecture.


Government of Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Unit


But it’s not stopped the programs from multiplying across the Caribbean…Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and Antigua are all competing with St. Kitts now for customers and badly needed cash.

Gaston Browne: So what are we supposed to do? Sit back and do nothing? You tell me.

Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, says the revenue from its four-year-old program has kept the government from defaulting on its international loans and has turned the economy around. Antigua also claims to have among the strictest programs in the Caribbean. You actually have to show up here to get citizenship, albeit very briefly.

Gaston Browne: Our law provides them to spend at least five days here.

Steve Kroft: That sounds like a vacation.

Gaston Browne: Yes. I understand. But however, we have made sure that at least there must be some face-to-face contact so we know who these people are.

Steve Kroft: For five days.

Gaston Browne: Minimum.

Steve Kroft: What kinda people are you looking for?

Gaston Browne: We’re lookin’ for high net worth individuals. People who are established business people. Who are well-known. And to make sure that we get the crème de la crème.

If so, they are recruiting them in some odd places. Last summer, Antigua announced it was opening an embassy in Baghdad hoping to sell passports to Iraqis. It didn’t work out. But it’s doing better next door in Syria after hiring a relative of President Bashar Al-Assad to represent them.

Steve Kroft: Have you had any applications from Syria?

Gaston Browne: Yes. We have had applications from Syria.

Steve Kroft: And you’ve approved them.

Gaston Browne: Syria is one of the areas in which we have had some concerns but did not place it on a restricted list.

Prime Minister Browne told us instability breeds opportunity. Besides Syria, Antigua has sold citizenship to Iranians, Libyans, Pakistanis, and the people who brought condos in this half-built complex in the desert outside Dubai, 7,300 miles away from Antigua. Its website advertised, “Buy a villa in the UAE and get citizenship of Antigua.”

Steve Kroft: I mean, you said that you were looking for the crème de la crème.

Gaston Browne: Crème de la crème.

Steve Kroft: I mean, there’s a developer in Dubai.

Gaston Browne: Yes.

Steve Kroft: Sweet Homes.

Gaston Browne: Yes.

Steve Kroft: Who is advertising that he’s giving away passports to anyone who buys a condominium there.

Gaston Browne: You don’t believe that, right?

Steve Kroft: Like you open a bank account, you get a free toaster.

Gaston Browne: That is not so.

Browne dismissed the sweet homes ads as advertising hype, saying the citizenship is not free or guaranteed. Somebody has to come up with $250,000 for Antigua and condo buyers must pass a background check.

Gaston Browne: You have to go through all of the due diligence.

Steve Kroft: What kinda due diligence do you do?

Gaston Browne: Well, and that is where the crux of the matter lies.


A diplomatic passport from Dominica


The prime minister claimed that the names of all applicants for Antiguan citizenship are screened by American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and generally speaking due diligence in the Caribbean has improved substantially since the scandals in St. Kitts. The small island offices with a few people are now backed up by international firms that take the screening to a higher level. But ultimately it’s up to each country to decide who gets a passport, and the Caribbean has a rich history of turning a blind eye to official corruption. It’s affected the way the way passports are handed out, especially diplomatic passports, that entitle the bearer to all sorts of special privileges, which Peter Vincent says represents a much more serious security threat.

Peter Vincent: The border officials at the receiving country, even without a visa, almost always admit an individual carrying a diplomatic passport. In addition, border forces are not entitled to search the luggage of diplomats like they are for regular tourists. They simply wave them through.

The sale of diplomatic passports is not part of the citizenship by investment program, but it’s gone on under the table, according to U.S. authorities, in places like Dominica, which has had a lot of dodgy diplomats.

Lennox Linton: We had a diplomatic passport in the hands of Francesco Corallo, who, at the time, was on INTERPOL’s list of most-wanted criminals.

Lennox Linton, who heads the opposition in Parliament, says no one in Dominica had ever heard of Corallo until he was stopped by authorities in Italy.

Lennox Linton: He said, “You can’t detain me. I’m a diplomat.” They said, “Diplomat? Diplomat of where?” He said, “Dominica.”

Then there’s Dominican diplomat Alison Madueke, a former Nigerian oil minister charged with bribery and money laundering. And Rudolph King, a Bahamian fugitive from U.S. justice, who presented himself as Dominica’s special envoy to Bahrain.

Lennox Linton: What we were doing with an ambassador in Bahrain, I don’t quite know. But they seem to think that there was some benefit in there for us.

Steve Kroft: I assume that you’ve asked the prime minister…

Lennox Linton: Yes.

Steve Kroft: How he ended up appointing these people, diplomats.

Lennox Linton: Yes.

Steve Kroft: And what was the answer?

Lennox Linton: The prime minister doesn’t answer those questions.

With vast sums of money flowing into these island nations, and more and more countries selling their citizenship, there is consensus that still more oversight and transparency is needed. But privacy and secrecy have always been a major selling point for people buying multiple passports, including Chris Kalin, the man who invented the business plan.

Steve Kroft: How many do you have?

Chris Kalin: I have multiple.

Steve Kroft: So you don’t wanna tell us how many you have?

Chris Kalin: There’s a few things in my life that, that I don’t talk openly about. And I keep for myself. But I am Swiss originally and many people think I’m very Swiss and so I’ll leave it at that.

Our report in January sparked a flurry of reaction in the Caribbean. In Dominica, there were riots demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit for his handling of diplomatic passports. He denies any improprieties. The St. Kitts government deactivated more than 15,000 passports, including 91 diplomatic passports. And Antigua’s program — singled out by the U.S. State Department as “among the most lax in the world” — has also recalled many of its diplomatic passports.

Source: Passports for Sale – CBS News