WASHINGTON, DC USA – United States-based Caribbean News Now said Tuesday that a message circulated by St. Kitts and Nevis’ Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne is an indication that she was not properly briefed on the Citizenship by Investment Hurricane Relief Fund or she deliberately misled fellow Caribbean diplomats in the US capital.
In a story headlined “Shameful move by St Kitts,” on Sunday, Caribbean News Now quoted Mahdi Mohammed, CEO of Guide Consultants as saying that the 50 percent cut in CIU investment requirement by Timothy Harris Government “is simply a ploy, a blatantly opportunistic move to improve the competitiveness of the St. Kitts and Nevis CBI programme at the expense of their Caribbean neighbours.”
The U.S. Online media also quoted St. Kitts and Nevis’ Leader of the Opposition, The Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas as saying that the decision by the Timothy Harris-led Team Unity Government to reduce by 50 percent the investment into the Federation’s Citizenship by Investment Programme, “is unconscionable, unfriendly, selfish, uncaring and reprehensible and is aimed at undermining the efforts of Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda to recover from the massive devastation caused by Hurricanes Maria and Irma.”
On Tuesday, Caribbean News Now reported that in response to its article on Sunday, the St. Kitts and Nevis ambassador to the United States, Thelma Phillip-Browne, claimed that it was a “misrepresentation” of a press release issued on Saturday by the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) in St Kitts announcing a drastic 50 percent cut in the investment requirement for its citizenship by investment (CBI) program, ostensibly to create a “hurricane relief fund.”
It said that in her message circulated to all Caribbean Community (CARICOM) ambassadors, Phillip-Browne said, “You will see that it is a proportion of the contribution that is going to a special relief fund and not a drop in overall figure in order to undercut or compete as purported.”
Caribbean News Now responded: “However, this is simply not true, as reinforced by a separate notice to CBI agents issued by the CIU (see below), which clearly states that citizenship by investment applicants will be required to make a non refundable contribution to the Hurricane Relief Fund as follows:
US$150,000 for a single applicant
A family of four (main applicant, spouse and two dependents) will also be required to contribute US$150,000
US$25,000 for any additional qualified dependents
Due diligence and application processing fees remain the same.
Caribbean Now News added: “In other words, for a family of four (the typical family unit for such applications), the contribution has in fact been reduced by 50 percent from US$300,000 to $150,000, with no mention that this is the “proportion of the contribution that is going to a special relief fund” and that the full contribution remains unchanged at $300,000.
The corresponding required contribution for a family of four for both Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica is US$200,000, meaning that, contrary to the attempted denial, St Kitts and Nevis has now significantly undercut its competitors at a time when both are in dire need of recovery and rebuilding finance.
“In the absence of any other official statement from the St. Kitts and Nevis government confirming that the total required contribution for a family of four remains unchanged at $300,000, it is not certain at this point whether or not the ambassador was properly briefed on the issue or if the message in question was simply designed to mislead fellow CARICOM diplomats,” said Caribbean News Now.
The Us-based online media reported that the opposition St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party pointed out that in an article published in a local newspaper on September 8, Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris reflected on “how fortunate the Federation (of St Kitts and Nevis) was after being spared the wrath of Hurricane Irma that devastated nearby islands.”
However, in a press release dated September 23, Harris claimed that two category 5 hurricanes have made landfall in St Kitts and Nevis causing devastation that has been phenomenal, thus apparently requiring the setting up of the Hurricane Relief Fund.
According to the opposition, this “act of deceit … will severely harm the reputation of our country in the medium to long term.”
“The question now arises as to whether this new passport programme is a legal one and whether the passports issued under this programme not sanctioned by Parliament could stand up to legal scrutiny,” the opposition concluded.