BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, MAY 4th, 2016 (PRESS SEC) – The status of St. Kitts and Nevis’ citizenship-by-investment programme was a topic of discussion at the roundtable that took place on Thursday, April 28th between the Government and the St. Kitts-Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
Attorney General, Honourable Vincent Byron, Jr., and Cabinet Secretary, Mrs. Josephine Huggins joined Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris for the discussion with the Chamber officials at Government Headquarters. Representing the Chamber were the newly installed President, Mr. José Rosa; Immediate Past President, Mr. Damion Hobson; Executive Director, Mrs. Brenda John; Chairman of the Manufacturing Division, Mr. Keithley Phillip, and Adviser to President Rosa, Mr. Mark Wilkin.
President Rosa enquired about the performance of the Citizenship-by-Investment Unit (CIU), particularly in relation to the average application processing time.
The Attorney General countered, saying, “To me, this has been an area that a lot has not been said about, and I start off by reading this text message from a service provider because it is very instructive.”
Honourable Vincent Byron, Jr., then read from his phone: “We received an application back in less than 45 days. First time ever to experience it, and the overseas agent was super impressed and if it continues they will move back all their business to SKN! Great work to all that are involved with the impressive efficiency.”
The Attorney General put his phone on the table and told the Chamber officials, “I think this, for us, has been a major success story that has been untold.”
Attorney General, Honourable Vincent Byron, Jr., continued: “When the Government got into office in February 2015, the Citizenship-by-Investment Unit had applications in excess of 18 months, averaging 12 months. There was a massive bottleneck at the Unit. The Moghadam issue, the FinCEN advisory, and the visa-free waiver being revoked by Canada are what have dominated the airwaves, but service providers had lost confidence and felt that they could not get their applications addressed. The CIU was seen as a government bureaucratic department and not an efficient financial institution.”
All of these scandals that had captured public attention and sullied the reputation of the citizenship-by-investment programme took place under the Douglas-led administration. The people of St. Kitts and Nevis voted on February 16th, 2015 and toppled that administration in favour of the Team Unity Government led by Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris.
The Attorney General told the Chamber officials that the Cabinet Secretary, Mrs. Josephine Huggins is personally responsible to the Cabinet and the Prime Minister for overseeing the reforms at the CIU.
“It is a job that we don’t speak about, but it is one that we are exceptionally proud of, to have turned around the Unit. It is an efficient unit that works. The Cabinet Secretary goes there on Saturday and Sunday. We are there seven days a week processing it,” the Attorney General said.
The Government inherited a backlog of over 1,500 citizenship applications. Impressively, the backlog has been significantly reduced. Moreover, current applications to the CIU are being turned around within 45 to 75 days while cold files are attended to on a daily basis. Also, the CIU is now using three due diligence service providers. Importantly, too, the Unit now offers a 24/7 case management system, meaning service providers can access information on the status of their applications at any given day or time.
Upon taking office Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris spearheaded a number of these initiatives to give a fresh start to the Program which is now once again one of the top in the world. The initiatives as alluded to earlier included structural, organizational and developmental changes implemented at the unit.
In a Media statement in late 2015 Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris stated
“Today marks an important day in the reform and restructuring of the Citizenship by Investment Unit in St Kitts and Nevis. Today we give a fresh start to: an enhanced CIU, better customer services, and advanced management information systems that are available to assist service providers 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. This case management system is the only one of its kind in use in the region,”
“We are definitely going to cascade this information to our members,” CIC President, Mr. José Rosa said. “I am glad for the information that you have shared with us today,” he added.
“It has been really reassuring to hear an update on the situation, and that story needs to be told,” Mr. Mark Wilkin said.