Citizenship Unit Counters Opposition Pledge to Review Economic Citizenships
The Citizenship by Investment Unit (CBIU) in Saint Lucia has attempted to counter a pledge by the opposition St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) to review every citizenship granted by the current government under the country’s citizenship by investment programme (CIP).
The SLP statement followed a walk out last week by all opposition parliamentarians after a motion to reverse changes to CIP was removed from the order paper for last Tuesday’s sitting of the House of Assembly.
“Without any hesitation, when the Labour Party resumes office, we will reinstate the net worth requirement and will undertake another due diligence assessment on each and every application granted under the UWP, with our promise to revoke any passports of applicants, who do not meet the $3 million net worth requirement or do not meet the strict due diligence requirements which Saint Lucians expect. Applicants applying for citizenship in St Lucia should be warned that when the SLP is returned to office, we will also demand that all citizens who did not donate the full contribution amount of US$200,000, will be compelled to top up the contribution that they made at the time of becoming citizens,” the SLP said last week.
On Monday, the CBIU issued a release outlining the conditions under which citizenship by investment decisions may be revoked.
Citizenship by investment, once granted, may be revoked subject only to the provisions of section 38 (1) of the Citizenship by Investment Act No.14 of 2015, on the following grounds:
1. Such registration as a citizen was obtained by false representation or fraud or willful concealment of material facts; or
2. the person has been convicted of an offence; or
3. the person has performed any other act which, within the opinion of the minister, has the potential to bring disrepute to Saint Lucia.
The minister with responsibility for citizenship by investment shall in writing specify the grounds for the revocation of citizenship by investment and the individual whose citizenship has been revoked has the right of appeal to the High Court.
Further, and with regard to the investment requirements, and as per section 38(7) of the Interpretation Act Cap 1.06, all citizenships granted pursuant to the provisions of the Statutory Instrument No. 1 of 2017, shall remain valid even if the Citizenship Amendment Regulations are revoked and or replaced by any other regulations.
“Agents, citizenship by investment applicants and other stakeholders can thus maintain confidence in the programme and be assured of its efficacy and certainty,” the release stated.
Responding to a request for clarification as to the possibility of the law itself being changed by a new government and not simply the regulations, Nicole McDonald, senior communications officer in the office of the prime minister, said that, even though the law is changed, the changes cannot be applied retroactively.
“I believe the law at the time of granting the citizenship would apply. If any government decides to pursue in the future changing our laws and applying it to persons who were granted citizenship under the current law, we run the risk of ruining our reputation in the investment world and, God forbid, persons who were granted citizenship seeking legal action against us. This is a programme the opposition party put in place, yet now they are trying to undermine it and scare away potential investors,” she said.
In a further release on Thursday in response to the statement issued by the CBIU, the SLP said it expected that the government or the office of the prime minister would have responded to the SLP’s earlier statement, which was critical of the changes made by the government and of the actions of the prime minister, rather than the citizenship unit.
The SLP called on Prime Minister Allen Chastanet to stop politicising the CBIU and avoid using the staff to pursue his political objectives. The SLP said it believes that the CBIU must remain professional and objective and political operatives must not be seen to be directing or interfering in its decisions.
The SLP also called on the staff of the CBIU and other government agencies involved in issuing citizenships and passports, to be vigilant and ensure that the correct procedures are followed and that they do not give in to threats from political operatives.
The SLP, however, supported the announcement of the CBIU in its press release that citizenship that has been granted to anyone on the basis of false representation or fraud or wilful concealment of material facts can be revoked.
“The SLP, therefore, wishes to repeat that when it assumes office it will conduct due diligence on every citizenship granted and any government official, board member, or political operative who knew or ought to have known or directed or approved any citizenship which is not in keeping with internationally accepted due diligence practice or the laws of Saint Lucia will be held criminally liable,” it said.
The SLP also called on the prime minister to review his approach and management of the CIP, as it said the actions of the government are severely undermining the image and reputation of Saint Lucia and posing a security risk to Saint Lucia.
“Based on information reaching it from agents and persons within the industry there is a crisis of confidence in the Saint Lucia CIP as there is a fear that friendly governments and enforcement agencies are now reluctant to be associated with the Saint Lucia CIP. Additionally, there is a now a higher fear of de-risking and loss of correspondent banks because of the loss of confidence in Saint Lucia,” the SLP added.
The SLP warned Chastanet that this will be catastrophic for the CIP in particular and Saint Lucia in general.
The SLP again called on the prime minister to revoke the changes made and to restore credibility to the Saint Lucia citizenship by investment programme and end all political interference in the operations of the CBIU.