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Lobbying firm to work for Caribbean governments

Bert Wilkinson | 2/23/2017, 11:12 a.m.
A Trinidad-based umbrella regional security agency is planning to help governments scrutinize the backgrounds of foreigners applying to become citizens ...
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A Trinidad-based umbrella regional security agency is planning to help governments scrutinize the backgrounds of foreigners applying to become citizens of a string of Caribbean nations that have schemes offering passports and citizenship to expatriates in exchange for investment dollars.

The move by the Caribbean Implementing Agency for Crime and Security, aka Impacs, has come as the governments of some countries in the nine-nation Eastern Caribbean subgrouping have been moving to improve security of the system because some applications have had problems with international police agencies.

Impacs Director Francis Forbes said on the sidelines of the two-day Caribbean leaders’ summit Thursday that Impacs is preparing to roll out a system that would do most of the investigative work for governments in countries offering the Citizenship by Investment Program. Forbes is a former Jamaica police chief.

“We are helping to formalize the process and are setting up a review committee,” Forbes said before meeting heads of government to brief them on the new system being put in place. “We are also getting a standardized application form in place to offer tighter security to the system.”

Antigua, St. Kitts, Dominica, St. Lucia and Grenada are the countries offering the dollars for passport and citizenship scheme, contending that they are using the money to make up for a failed banana export sector, loss of import taxes from duty free trade in the bloc of 15 nations and problems such as fluctuating tourist arrivals. Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St. Vincent, has vowed that his island would not sign on to the scheme once he is head of government because of security concerns.

The move also comes as the administration of Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua moved in the past week to re-examine passports issued to 19 foreigners by the previous administration amid fears that the backgrounds of the holders might be dubious.

Announcing the review earlier this week, Economic Investment Minister Asot Michael said the review has already begun for 17 Iranians and two Yemenis. The minister said questions about the issuance to the 19 are being raised after a tipster supplied information to him and Brown during a recent Middle East trip.

Michael said, “We are acting out of an abundance of caution. Any evidence that the Citizenship Unit will provide will be turned over to the police for investigation.” He noted that the passports were issued several years ago, by the previous administration.