Grenada’s Economic Citizenship programme has faced a barrage of criticisms but Chairman of the Citizenship By Investment Committee, Senator Christopher De Allie has said that as far as such programmes go, Grenada is not so bad.
“The CBI Unit is not perfect in what it will do and no system is perfect. You would have instances where something will happen or somebody (will) fall through the crack. But we have set up what we believe to be one of the most secured and layered way of checking security of the applicants”, he told reporters.
Sen. De Allie who was part of a three-man team at the Post-Cabinet briefing on Tuesday said that there have been “no major issues” linked to CBI applicants since the implementation of the programme almost six years ago.
But while the new Chairman has sought to allay public fears, mistrust and suspicion regarding the programme, there is evidence of some projects going terribly wrong.
The three most spectacular fails under Grenada’s CBI programme are the Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture Shrimp Farm Project which was to happen in St Mark and is now the subject of a Criminal Investigation through the office of the Attorney General, the US$2billion Grenada Resort Complex Project at Mt Hartman, St George, whose principal developer is now the subject of legal action in the United States.
The other project which has also run into problem is the multi-million dollar development at Levera which is now the subject of a local court case between the landowners Paul Taylor and local businessman, Lyden Ramdhanny and the project developers, U.S brothers Robert and Randall Oveson.
Grenada has approved hundreds of Citizenship applications under the controversial projects and they never materialised, leaving investors with a Grenada passport and no investment returns.
Sen. De Allie sought to downplay the negative returns connected to the CBI programme, stressing that it is one of the best run in the world.
He said changes are being made to make the unit more efficient in terms of rate of processing of applications. However he did not elaborate on what those changes would look like.
After the St Mark project fell apart, the Keith Mitchell-led Administration acted to make the programme more secure for investors by establishing provisions for developers to secure up to half the project value in escrow.
Chief Executive Officer at the CBI office, Percival Clouden called the CBI programme “a very important entity” that he said accounted for ten percent of the country’s GDP in 2019.
Clouden said 679 citizenship applications were processed, earning Grenada just over $75-million.
According to the CBI officials, there are six layers of security checks to which applicants are subjected and these include verification of source of funds, investigations by international security companies and international law enforcement agencies.
Despite assurances that the vetting process for economic citizenship is secure there is still the risk of undesirable people getting approved and United States Ambassador to the OECS, Linda Swartz Taglialatela warned that countries in the region with CBI programmes need to be careful.
Court papers made public last year by THE NEW TODAY newspaper revealed that Grenada had approved applications from people originating in countries such as Sudan, Iran and Syria which are on the US list of rogue States that sponsor terrorism.
The CBI Chairman said such applications may have been approved before those States were blacklisted by the US although records show that they have been considered State Sponsors of Terrorism for the duration of Grenada’s CBI programme which began in 2013.
Clouden also said that Grenada currently does not consider applications from Iranians and North Koreans.
Under the Grenada CBI, the identity of economic citizenship applicants is secret.
Clouden said since the programme began Grenada has not revoked citizenship from any CBI client.
He said the marketing agents continue to monitor investment citizens and so far they have not received any reports of breaches of the conditions of citizenship.
There are 68 marketing agents, locally and internationally, involved in selling Grenadian citizenship.
Economic Development Minister Oliver Joseph believes that people are fearful of the CBI programme because they don’t know enough about it.
“This fear of CBI I think is because of lack of knowledge. Perhaps we need to do more publicity on the benefits of CBI to the people,” he said.