The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, has recently called for stronger vetting processes regarding the country’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP). Browne cited an uptick in crime as a point of weakness in its vetting process of applicants seeking a second passport through investment opportunities.
Browne’s call for more rigorous vetting procedures was made after United States immigration authorities discovered Alexandre Cazes, a notorious cyber criminal, had gained access to an Antigua and Barbuda passport through its popular Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP).
Cazes, now deceased, was awaiting extradition to Thailand on criminal charges for operating an international cybercrime platform called Alpha Bay. Browne noted that Cazes’ ability to obtain a passport through Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Program was indicative of the need to strengthen the weaknesses found in the program’s vetting system.
Cazes and his wife obtained citizenship to Antigua and Barbuda in February through the program’s real estate investment option, which requires high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals to purchase government-approved property for a minimum of USD $400,000. Like all Caribbean Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIPs), applicants to Antigua and Barbuda’s program can acquire a second citizenship and passport largely by mail and via web-based communication.
At a press conference on Friday in the Commonwealth of Dominica, Browne stated “[Cazes] only got Antiguan citizenship a few months ago and he never committed any crime in Antigua and Barbuda. In any event, I understand that they were cybercrimes and those are not the easiest crimes to detect. I believe there would have been some failure in the due diligence as a result of the nature of the crime.”
This recent incident, however, is not the first that has compromised the integrity of Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP). Earlier this month, the island nation made headlines following Canada’s decision to revoke visa-free entry for citizens and valid passport holders of Antigua and Barbuda. The decision was made by the Government of Canada as a response to concerns for national safety involving Antigua and Barbuda’s citizenship vetting process.
Despite reservations held by the U.S. and Canadian governments, Browne insists that these cases are few and far between and should not be used as a representation of Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP). Because Cazes’ crimes were cyber-related, Browne remarked that “Clearly, we have to build our capacity to monitor cybercrimes. But, I believe that due to the very nature of the crime, it is one of the very reasons it was not picked up.”
One might ask if this incident signals more trouble ahead for Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP), but Browne does not agree: “I do not see any significant consequences for Antigua & Barbuda or for the CIP [program]. First of all, you have to understand that the very nature of the CIP [program] is that you will have one or two of these issues from time to time but it does not necessarily say that there is anything fundamentally wrong with the [program],” he said.
Indeed, the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP) is commonly praised for its rigorous vetting processes. While any negative short and long-term effects of the Cazes case remain unclear for Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP), one thing is certain: Browne’s administration is determined to enhance the island’s vetting system to avoid any future problems.
For more information on Antigua and Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Program, please click here.
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