US official cautions Caribbean countries about citizenship programmes

MarkBysfield-1Bridgetown, Barbados — A United States diplomat has cautioned the region about pursuing economic citizenship programmes.

US charge d’ affaires Mark Bysfield told Caribbean national security officials at a Regional Security Service (RSS) meeting in Barbados that, despite the difficult economic times that require austere budgets, Caribbean states must be cautious.

“I urge member states to exercise due diligence and caution in the administration of economic citizenship programmes,” Bysfield said at the start of the annual meeting of the Council of Ministers of the RSS.

New St Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris told journalists at the RSS meeting that his government intends to continue the programme, but with some adjustments, having hit some turbulence over the last two years when the US government issued an advisory regarding the management and due diligence practices of the programme.

The St Kitts and Nevis citizenship by investment programme is the oldest and has long been considered the best programme of its kind in the world; however, last year Canada imposed visa restrictions on citizens of St Kitts and Nevis due to concerns regarding the programme and the due diligence methods and overall management of the programme by former prime minister Dr Denzil Douglas.

Harris indicated that a concerted effort has begun to have the programme revamped, with the aim of eventually having Canada reverse its decision to remove visa waivers.

According to Harris, his Cabinet will make a determination shortly, on how to proceed in light of recommendations made by an agency that reviewed the programme.

“We, at home are working post haste to revamp the programme to institute some control measures, which we think would reduce incidents of risk to our programme and to other partners internationally,” the prime minister said.

“We are optimistic that we can reorganize, reposition and strengthen the position of St Kitts and Nevis, which has been the oldest and which, hitherto, has had the best programme available. We still believe that we can make it the best programme and the one which others will go on to emulate.”

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