BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, MAY 26TH, 2017 (PRESS SEC) – Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris said on Tuesday that the safe passage of the Advance Passenger Information Bill “helps St. Kitts and Nevis’ reputation as a responsible member of the international community.”
The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis stated that the safe passage in the Parliament furthered the progress, which the Government of National Unity is making at a steady clip in offsetting the reputational damage to the country suffered under the previous Denzil Douglas-led administration.
Progress on that front has seen reforms to the country’s AML/CFT [anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism] regime, as well as a robust overhaul and rebranding of its Citizenship by Investment Program to include a strengthened due diligence process that is now the platinum standard. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) commended these improvements during the recently held Article (IV) Consultation in St. Kitts and Nevis.
This progress has also seen a reputational rebound for St. Kitts and Nevis’ passport, which is ranked number one in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), number two in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) behind The Bahamas, and number 50 in the world out of 199 countries and territories, according to the Nomad Passport Index 2017.
St. Kitts and Nevis’ enviable standing is a far cry from the reputational low point it hit in 2014 under the Douglas-led administration when the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory on May 20th of that year, warning of “illicit actors” who were “abusing” St. Kitts-Nevis’ Citizenship by Investment Program to “facilitate financial crime.” Six months later, effective November 22nd, 2014, the Canadian government revoked the visa-free status of citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis, citing “concerns about the issuance of passports and identity management practices within its CIP [Citizenship by Investment Program].”
One dubious identity management practice in particular – granting St. Kitts-Nevis passports with the holder’s place of birth concealed – prompted the Douglas administration to issue an urgent recall in December 2014.
According to records provided by the Canadian Bank Note [the company that produces passports for most of the CARICOM member states, including St. Kitts and Nevis], 15,197 regular passports, 91 diplomatic and 39 official passports were issued without the country of birth field under the Denzil Douglas regime. The total (15,327 passports) amounts to almost 30 percent of the country’s population.
“My Government has taken the decision to deactivate all passports issued by the former government without the country of birth field,” Prime Minister Harris informed the public during one of his monthly press conferences back on March 9th, 2017.
“All such holders will have to reapply for a new passport, which will contain the relevant country of birth field and they will pay the cost of the new passport. This, of course, is an imperative to safeguard the integrity of our passport, to comply with international best practices, and to satisfy our commitment to being a responsible member of the international community,” Dr. Harris explained in March.
Two months later, the passage of the Advance Passenger Information Bill (or APIS Bill) this past Tuesday has no doubt solidified the Government of National Unity’s commitment in this regard.
The Bill provides for the management of the automated electronic data interchange of Advance Passenger Information (API) and the screening of API against a Watch List.
Importantly, the APIS Bill strengthens St. Kitts and Nevis’ ongoing collaboration with global law enforcement and security agencies, including CARICOM’s Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) and its sub-agency the Joint Regional Communications Centre (JRCC).
As set out in the Advance Passenger Information Bill, IMPACS shall use the APIS to “conduct screening against Watch Lists of crew members and passengers on aircraft and vessels that enter into, depart from and travel within the regional space in order to provide information to assist Participating Countries.”
The Bill further states that IMPACS may share the information contained within APIS with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and any other national, regional or international intelligence, law enforcement or security agencies or centres approved by CARICOM’s Council for National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE) in order to further national, regional or international security.
Schedule I of the APIS Bill deals with advance passenger information such as data relating to the flight or voyage; data relating to each individual on board including official travel document number, nationality, date of birth and place of birth; additional data elements including visa number, if applicable, as well as primary residence and destination address.
Speaking in Parliament, Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, remarked on “how timely and propitious it is to bring it [the APIS Bill] when terrorism has again raised its ugly head in the world and raised it in a corner of the world where we have so many of our citizens residing – in Manchester.”
Prime Minister Harris continued: “They must feel a sense of comfort that this Government understands the issues of the day…that their Government cares about the peace and security of the world, because our citizens are everywhere and because our philosophy is that peace leads to and creates the environment for prosperity…for all of the world and all of our citizens and residents.”