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Former St Kitts & Nevis PM Denzil Douglas during an interview with Gulf News in Dubai. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

DUBAI: Former St Kitts & Nevis prime minister and leader of opposition Dr Denzil L. Douglas said passports of those who acquired their citizenship by fraudulent means will be revoked if he returns to power.

Dr Douglas, who was in Dubai last week, met Gulf News in the wake of its recently published report on the abuse of the country’s much sought after Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI) which marks 25 years in 2019.

On February 10, Gulf News had reported how some immigration agents in Dubai were circumventing legal requirements or forging documents to process citizenship applications of St Kitts & Nevis at way-below government-sanctioned rates.

In his interview, Douglas said: “Applicants who knowingly violated regulations to seek our nationality will be called upon to face the law and stripped off their citizenship. The agents who facilitated the crime will also be held accountable,” he said.

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St Kitts & Nevis, which goes to polls next year, is the most popular destination for GCC residents seeking second passports of Caribbean nations.

Of the 16,544 people who acquired St Kitts & Nevis nationality under the country’s CBI in 2018, nearly 20 per cent were GCC residents.

Their fate now is in jeopardy. Douglas said all passports issued over the past four years will be subjected to scrutiny.

16, 544

people acquired St Kitts & Nevis nationality in 2018

“This is not about politics. This is a serious matter which impacts our people and our economy. The CBI makes up for over 30 per cent of our revenue. It is significant for the future economic fortunes of not only St Kitts & Nevis but several countries in the Caribbean region. No one should be allowed to abuse it for personal gains,” said Dr Douglas who served as prime minister from 1995-2015.

30 %

of St Kitts & Nevis’ revenue comes from citizenship scheme

Douglas also accused a St Kitts & Nevis government delegation which visited Dubai early this year of not acting against agents who forged government documents or fraudulently switched applications and misappropriated client money into personal accounts, depriving, government exchequers of valuable foreign currency.

20 %

of the applicants were from the GCC countries

“The inaction of the government, particularly Les Khan, head of the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) cries out loudly.

The visiting delegation glossed over the fact that some unscrupulous persons are engaged in activities of fraud and forgery and underselling and undermining the programme by reasoning that because the number of citizenships granted under such unsavoury circumstances are insignificant against the 16,000 economic citizenships granted to date, it should be ignored.

White-collar crime

The government must report the alleged crimes of forgery and fraud to the appropriate agency of the national apparatus here in the UAE and to the White Collar Crime Unit of the Royal St Kitts and Nevis Police Force at home for immediate collaborative investigation.

He also urged the government to temporarily suspend all applications submitted by international marketing agents accused of fraud.

“If elected to power I will take definitive action against all proven violators in accordance with the existing citizenship laws and regulations of St Kitts & Nevis governing the granting of CBI, which may involve prosecution of violators at home or abroad and temporary or permanent withdrawal of the use of the St Kitts & Nevis passport by citizens.

"However, consistent with the principles of natural justice, the administration will engage in determining whether citizens were duped or knowingly conspired with their international marketing agents, and will allow them to come forward to prove such declarations,” he said.

Talking to Gulf News last month both the head of the CIU Les Khan and St Kitts-Nevis’ minister of justice, legal affairs and communications Vincent Fitzgerald Byron Jr had defended the programme, saying the allegations of fraud were “unfounded and politically motivated”.

They also allayed concerns of applicants of losing the St. Kitts-Nevis citizenship.