Caribbean Community countries which have in recent decades opted to sell local passports and citizenship certificates to foreigners in exchange for cash and investments in designated economic sectors are coming up with innovative ways to keep the program going despite efforts by the U.S. and Europe to kill it off because of security concerns.

For countries such as St. Kitts, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia and Grenada, the Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP) represents a lifeline innovative effort to raise funds for development projects to replace lost monies from a dead banana export industry, the blow the COVID pandemic dealt to tourism, and reduced taxes from open free trade in the bloc among other shortfalls.

So the group of Eastern Caribbean nations invited wealthy citizens to spend a minimum of US$100,000 in cash, invest in real estate or start up a business and employ locals in exchange for a local passport and citizenship.

For most, if not all, of the participating states, the scheme has been an overwhelming success, with Dominica, for example, announcing that it has been able to raise half a billion in cash in the past three years to spend on a number of key infrastructural projects.

But even as the subregional governments press ahead with the investment scheme, law enforcement authorities in the U.S. and Europe are urging cabinets to pressure the bloc into either severely scaling back or dismantling it all together, as legitimate wanted persons are slipping the due diligence system, acquiring local passports, and sometimes using visa free systems to enter Europe and transit the U.S.

Citizens of some of the participating countries have visa free travel to Europe, but the EU has warned that these privileges could soon be taken away if the region does not act to end the CIP and or improve their background investigative abilities.

To counter and assuage the fears of the EU in particular, Antigua, one of the countries with the oldest programs, is proposing the appointment of a single program regulator to oversee the scheme and to liaise with concerned countries in the west.

Government spokesman Melford Nicholas told reporters in the past week that the region is anxious to have not only a coordinated response to security concerns, but to also have one person to whom international authorities can relate to.

“It will be a response to the issues that they have raised and it will be to demonstrate, over and above anything else, our intent to be compliant and sympathetic to issues that they may raise in terms of their own security,” he said.

Incidentally, he was speaking around the same time that two U.S. congressmen introduced the no travel for traffickers act bill to deal with the “severe security risks of the golden passport signaling a critical step to isolate bad actors around the globe,” said representatives Burgess Owens and Steve Cohen said in their bipartisan effort.

They complain about the region’s allegedly poor background vetting processes which, they say, has allowed wanted men on the list of the International Police system (Interpol) to slip through the cracks and obtain citizenship and easy travel to Europe in particular.

Still, people like Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne are fighting back, contending that the same rules are not giving those in Europe with similar programs the same tough scrutiny as they are giving the region with far fewer cases.

A severely scaled back or canceled program would devastate the region, Browne said.

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