Part 2: Citizenship By Investment

Sandra Ferguson

Conflict of Interests, Integrity in Public Life and the People’s Business

Part 2:  CITIZENSHIP BY INVESTMENT

 

By Citizens in Defence of Grenada’s Lands and Heritage

 

In August 2013, the Government of Grenada introduced the Citizenship by Investment Act. This article takes a look at developments since then.

 

1.         Citizenship by Investment Act:

  • The Citizenship by Investment Act – Act 15 of 2013 – enables persons to acquire permanent residence and citizenship of Grenada by registration following investment in Grenada and for incidental and connected purposes.
  • Investment means:-
    •  A payment into the National Transformation Fund in accordance with Section 10 of the Act.  National Transformation Fund means a special fund established under section 43(1)(a) of the Public Finance Management Act Cap 262B for the purpose of funding government sponsored projects including public-private partnerships.
    • A payment towards an approved project in Grenada in accordance with Section 11 of the Act.

 

2.         Approved Projects:

Via the GBN newscast of November 6th,  the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Business identified four projects to be financed under the National Transformation Fund: – Port Louis, Mt Cinnamon, St. David’s Town Centre and West India Spices.

 

Criteria for Approval:  It remains unclear as to what criteria were used in the selection of these projects.

 

3.         Citizenship by Investment Committee:

It is understood that the members of the Citizenship by Investment Committee are:

  • Chairman – David Hulokoff
  • Rupert Agostini
  • Bill Robinson
  • Kim George
  • Sabrina Gibbs
  • Cuthbert Noel

 

3.1.      Rupert Agostini:

Note that according to the Act, the Committee is to be comprised of “ persons of integrity who are qualified and have the necessary experience and capacity ………………”    How does Mr. Rupert Agostini qualify to be a member of this committee given:

  • the past performance of the Board of Directors of the disgraced Grenada International Financial Services Authority (GIFSA) of which he was a member.  GIFSA was responsible for the oversight and regulation of Grenada’s offshore banking sector which defrauded investors of an estimated US$170 million.
  • Mr. Agostini’s own personal conduct while being a member of GIFSA[1]

 

4.   Marketing Agents:

Even before the Citizenship by Investment Act had been tabled in Parliament, Ambassador Peter DeSavary was advertising the Citizenship by Investment Programme as a means of attracting investment in his  Mt. Cinnamon Resort and Private Beach Club.  His CBI brochure was accessed via the link http://www.grenadabeachclub.com/brochure/Grenada_CBI_Brochure.pdf

 

The 2014 Budget Statement advised that Cabinet had appointed two agents[2] under the Citizenship by Investment Programme:

  • United States Regional Economic Development Authority (USREDA)
  • Savvy Grenada

 

4.1.      USREDA:

  • Further research suggests that the entity that Grenada is really dealing with is the South Atlantic Regional Centre
  • It   is also noted that the  USREDA CBI Brochure has identified the following benefits of among benefits of the Permanent Residence by Investment Programme:-
    • E-2 Treaty Status with the USA
    •  reduced tuition to the St. George’s Medical School and College

 

Does this reference to SGU suggest that there are some kind of arrangements between the St. George’s University and that CBI marketing entity called USREDA or SARC.?   A close eye should be kept on the expansionist initiatives of the St. George’s University –  like the recently announced plans to build the substance abuse rehabilitation centre and the involvement of persons such as Ambassador Melnicke.

 

4.2.      Ambassador Peter DeSavary:

A Google search has revealed the following websites, all associated with Ambassador Peter DeSavary, advertising Grenadian Citizenship.

 

4.2.1.   http://www.citizenship.gd/agents/:

This website advises that that the following are agents under (Peter DeSavary’s ) Spiceland Trading:

  • NTL IMMIGRATION, Riga, Latvia  tel +371 6785 9626
  • NTL IMMIGRATION, Hong Kong  tel +852 2815-9198
  • NTL IMMIGRATION, Americas  tel +1 869 469 5500

 

4.2.2.   Global Information Consulting Group – http://gicg.net/about-us/:

The website of Global Information Consulting Group identifies its office as being in Egypt.  The site advises that GICG:-

  • “ is a specialized company in the field of investment programs leading to immigration and citizenship status around the world”  offeringexclusive services to prominent businessmen in the Persian Gulf”. 
  • has a well earned reputation as one of the most pre-eminent consulting groups internationally, with market contacts in the Caribbean, Canada, Europe and the Middle East since 1996
  • premium and key client-body consists of High-Net-Worth Individuals (HNWIs) and their families from the Persian Gulf mainly the GCC Countries
  • can assist any country in creating a “Well Structured, Well managed and Competitive” CIP program that would reflect the unique characteristics of each nation including its economical, political, social and demographical aspects. This service can range from general consultations to a complete turnkey job.
  • offers Program Audit of Existing Citizenship-by-Investment Programs (CIPs) which is done in complete transparency and confidentiality.

4.2.2.1.            The Grenada Programme – http://gicg.net/residency-by-investment-program-grenada/:

The website describes the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Programme as the ‘HOT NEWS” of the Citizenship by Investment world these days.  It advises of three options for the Citizenship Programme:

  • Option 1 – US$1M Investment Required: –  includes full freehold ownership of a luxury apartment and two shares in the operating profits at Mount Cinnamon Hotel; two of only 500 issued shares in the company that owns the hotel business; and two Main Citizenships.
  • Option 2 – US$500,000 Investment Required: – includes a 50% freehold interest in a luxury one-bedroom apartment, one share in the operating profits of the entire hotel business, and one Citizenship.
  • Option 3- Non refundable Donation: – “a non-refundable donation to the Island Transformation Fund. This option although not ready to receive applications currently is available in a two-steps program for a little over US$200,000. This process involves first obtaining Grenada Permanent Residence and then applying for naturalization as a second step.”  CAN THIS BE INTERPRETED AS “RUN SOME MONEY AND GET A PASSPORT”?

 

4.2.2.2.        http://monarchandco.com/grenada/grenada-citizenship-investment/grenada-faq/:

The citizens of Grenada should note that this website is advertising Mt. Cinnamon, Grand Anse Beach , Grenada – Beautiful PRIVATE Beach.(our emphasis).

 

5.              Local Agents:

Local Agents are licensed under the Act.

  • Submission of Applications to the Citizenship by Investment Committee:  They act on behalf of applicants, submitting the applications to the Citizenship by Investment Committee for Citizenship by Investment or for Permanent Residence by Investment.
  •  Escrow Accounts:  Local agents also control and manage an irrevocable escrow account into which monies are placed in order for applications to be processed.

 

The public has been made aware that the following attorneys-at-law have been granted licences as local agents:

  • Margaret  V.L.A. Wilkinson
  • Shireen J. Wilkinson
  • Michelle Emmanuel Steele
  • Avril Anande Trotman-Joseph
  • Dr. Lawrence Joseph
  • Venescia Francis-Banfield
  • Shiela Harris
  • Leslie Ann Seon

 

5.1.      Persons in Public Life:

Among these licensed local agents,  are persons who, according to the Integrity in Public Life Act , qualify as persons in public life: – members of the Integrity Commission, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of statutory boards.   Schedule VI  of the Integrity in Public Life Act sets out the Code of Conduct for persons in public life.  Among the general principles are the following:

  • A person in public life shall not allow his or her private interest to conflict with his or her public position.  It shall be the responsibility of the person in public life to avoid such conflicts of interests whether real, potential or apparent.
  • A person in public life shall always conduct himself or herself in such a way that the public’s confidence and trust in the integrity, impartiality and effectiveness of the pubic service are preserved and enhanced.
  • Conflict of Interests:  A conflict of interest arises from a situation in which a person in public life has private interests which is such as to influence or appear to influence, the impartial and objective performance of his or her official duties.
  • Private Interests:  The private interest of a person in public life includes any advantage to himself or herself, to his or her family, close relatives, friends or organizations with whom he or she had had business for potential relations.  It also includes any liabilities whether financial or work relating thereto.
  • Personal Responsibility:  A person in public life has a personal responsibility to be alert to any actual or potential conflict of interests and to take steps to avoid such conflict.
  • Incompatible Outside Interests:  A person in public life shall not engage in any activity or transaction or acquire any position or function whether paid or unpaid, that is incompatible with or detracts from the proper performance of his or her duties as a public official. Where it is not clear whether an activity is compatible, he or she should seek advice from the Commission.

 

5.1.1.     Conflict of Interests:

The Code of Conduct for persons in public life suggests that the appointment of the following local agents give rise to conflict  vis-à-vis  their professional and private interests or their responsibilities as persons in public life:-

  • Michelle Emmanuel Steele:  As spouse of the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Business, Nickolas Steele, Ms. Michelle Emmanuel Steele of Veritas Legal represents the “private interests” of the Hon. Minister who is also wooing these investors to Grenada.
  • Anande Trotman-Joseph:  Ms. Joseph is the spouse of the President of the Senate and the Deputy Chair of the Integrity Commission.  Among the functions of the Integrity Commission is to obtain declaration of the assets, liabilities, income and interests in relation to property of persons in public life  and examine the procedures and examine  the practices and procedures of public bodies (like the Citizenship by Investment Committee to which she would be submitting applications as a local agent on behalf of applicants).
  • Dr. Lawrence Joseph:  Dr. Joseph is the President of the Senate.
  • Ms. Leslie Ann Seon:   Ms. Leslie Ann Seon is the spouse of David Hulokoff, the Chair of the Citizenship by Investment Committee.  As a local agent, she would be submitting applications on behalf of applicants to the Citizenship by Investment Committee.  She is also chair of the Board of Directors of the Grenada Industrial Development Corporation.  The GIDC facilitates the setting up of business in Grenada and the Board of Directors would be responsible for reviewing applications for tax incentives and making recommendations to government.    It should also be noted that the GIDC is represented on the Review Panel to assess applications that have been denied. 

 

Conclusion:  It is reasonable to conclude that the private and professional interests (as local agents of the Citizenship by Investment) of the Deputy Chair of the Integrity Commission, the President of the Senate and the Chair of the Board of Directors of the GIDC are  incompatible with and  detract  from the proper performance of their duties as persons in public life.  The appointment of the spouse of the Minister of Foreign Affairs is also incompatible with the Minister’s public duties.

 

6.     Amendment to the Citizenship by Investment Act:

On March 7th, 2014, at the sitting of the House of Representatives ,  the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Business introduced an amendment to Section 15 of the Act to REMOVE THE REQUIREMENT FOR THE DISCLOSURE in the bi-annual report of the names, addresses and nationalities of the applicants and their dependents included in the applications.  It is noted that Minister Steele did not offer any explanation for the adjustment save to say that “As we progress with the programme we find it necessary to make this adjustment”.  Where is the transparency and accountability in respect of the identities of persons who will now acquire Grenadian passports?

 

The recent developments pertaining to the Citizenship by Investment Programme should send worrying signals to the nation:

  • Is the Citizenship by Investment Programme being run like a LODGE?
  • Given Option 3 of the programme – “RUN SOME MONEY AND GET A PASSPORT” and the recent amendment to remove disclosure of identities and nationalities, should Grenada worry about.  WHO is getting permanent residence and citizenship?
  • Is Grenada’s INTERNATIONAL IMAGE and integrity once again being put AT RISK?

 

 


[1] Pg. 23, Sentencing Memorandum, United States District Court, District of Oregon CR-01-321-KI, United States of America vs. Rita L. Regale, Douglas C. Ferguson, Robert J. Skirving and Laurent E. Barnabe a.k.a Larry Barnabe.

[2] Budget Statement 2014, Citizenship by Investment Programme, page 30

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