By Valencia Grant – CNS Contributor
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Apr 25 2016 – Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris has reiterated his commitment to ensuring that the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, which has the oldest citizenship-by-investment programme (CIP) dating back to 1984, also has the most secure one in the world.
Responding to a reporter’s question about whether the Prime Minister was satisfied the new safeguards his Government had put in place would protect the country’s CIP from illicit actors, Dr. Harris said that, under his watch, St. Kitts and Nevis welcomes and accommodates the most rigorous and robust due diligence framework.
Prime Minister Harris contrasted his Team Unity Administration’s meticulous approach with the way in which the previous administration dealt with concerns expressed by diplomatic partners such as Canada and the United States.
“In fact, that had been part of our problem with the Douglas administration, that it was too footloose and fancy free with the processing of our citizenship, that it was acting like a vendor on the street in terms of its approach to the citizenship programme, which is such a precious part of our patrimony and way of life that should never be compromised,” Prime Minister Harris said, adding that 14 months have passed since his Team Unity Government was voted into office by the people, and there has not been another scandal.
Prime Minister Harris referenced two scandals that tarnished the name of St. Kitts and Nevis’ CIP: the May 20th, 2014 Advisory issued by a bureau of the US Treasury Department, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), that warned of the CIP being used “to facilitate financial crime;” then on November 22nd, 2014, the Canadian government issued a strongly worded statement, saying, among other things, that, “As of 12:00p.m. EST today, citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis will require a visa to travel to Canada. Canada has implemented the visa requirement on St. Kitts and Nevis due to concerns about the issuance of passports and identity management practices within its CIP. Canada is acting to protect the safety and security of Canadians and the integrity of our immigration system.”
Since taking office in February 2015, the Dr. Harris-led Team Unity Administration has employed the expertise of IPSA International, a reputable regulatory risk mitigation company, to implement 20 significant reforms. This was done in an effort to rebuild the trust of the international community and demonstrate that the Government fully embraces being a responsible member that does not compromise the security of the other states.
Prime Minister Harris said his Government is committed to transparency and a high level of accountability, and will cooperate with international stakeholders on all matters relating to the citizenship-by-investment programme.
“We believe that we have now one of the strongest due diligence mechanisms,” the Prime Minister said, adding that, “I will go so far to say that, because we have nothing to hide, we are prepared to open up for scrutiny to any well-meaning international partner, for them to see what we have done, the transformation and reforms that have been effected by this administration, and how they have made us stronger and better for it.”
Dr. Harris said relations with the United Sates, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Canada were excellent, and he pledged to further strengthen them.