September 19, 2020

Citizenship-through-investment, a trend in the Caribbean


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1151679_65958270-960x640By Natalia Bonilla from Fox News Latino

Citizenship-by-investment programs are becoming popular in the , appealing to those looking to avoid taxes in their home countries, regional experts told .

In 1984, St. Kitts and Nevis was the first country in the region to offer such a program. Since then, St. Lucia, Dominica, , Antigua and Barbuda and Turks and Caicos have joined the initiative.

Puerto Rican lawyer Christian Sobrino told Efe that for Caribbean islands heavily dependent on tourism, these programs are seen as a way to fund infrastructure projects and economic and social development.

“It’s an additional approach to meet those goals,” Sobrino said.

According to St. Kitts and Nevis’s program Web site, anyone interested in acquiring citizenship must make a $250,000 donation to the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation or invest $400,000 in real estate projects previously approved by the government.

Katherine Verano, director of marketing for realty firm , told Efe that most customers who invest in properties are over 55 and have annual incomes above $750,000.

“What we find is that citizenship may be the draw for the international buyer, but they buy because of the quality of product, amenities, services that we offer. They find here a lifestyle that is commensurate with their own,” Verano said.

Since 2008, Christophe Harbour has sold nearly $100 million worth of property, mainly to buyers from the United States, Britain and Russia.

Lawyer Edgardo Rios told Efe that citizenship-through-investment plans are mainly attractive to people who live in countries that tax citizens regardless of their place of residence.

“The last time I checked, 25 countries were part of worldwide taxation, which means they are pursuing their own citizens for merely being citizens and urge them to pay taxes even if you don’t live there anymore,” he said.

He stressed that the programs should be handled with caution because they can promote tax havens.

Sobrino emphasized that the Caribbean is the most attractive region for investors for its general image as tourist paradise and the political, economic and diplomatic relations the islands have with the former European colonial powers.

“What makes a destination unique are the ‘amenities’, not the citizenship that is tied to them,” he said.

Grenada is the only Caribbean jurisdiction so far that had to cancel their citizenship-through-investment program after accusations of money laundering.

In 2013, Grenada revived the initiative, increasing the upfront fee from $40,000 to about $310,000.

In May 2014, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a bureau of the U.S. Department of Treasury, issued an alert on abuse of passports obtained on the St. Kitts and Nevis program by illicit actors with “the purpose of evading U.S. or international sanctions or engaging in other financial crime”. EFE

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