An opposition member of parliament in St Lucia has told WIC News that his party would review every single person given economic citizenship under this government if returned to power.
This is because the administration runs a citizenship by investment scheme based on getting “as many people in as possible” without respect for St Lucians’ concerns.
Ernest Hilaire, St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) MP for Castries South, said that Prime Minister Allen Chastanet had undone three key components that the previous administration had introduced to ensure a secure, successful programme.
“When we designed the programme there were a number of concerns expressed by St Lucians,” he said.
“People were worried if there would be effective due diligence, people were worried whether too many people would apply, and people were worried that we would be cheapening our image as a country.”
“So in designing the programme we may sure we put in three major constraining provisions.
“One, an annual cap of 500 applications. Secondly, you had to declare and prove that you had a net worth of at least US$3 million. That was ensure we could attract people who had real financial resources. Thirdly, we had the price set at US$200,000 for donations, and US$300,000 for real estate.
“The new government, I see advised by friends of theirs in the industry, removed the cap altogether. Instead, they are ‘as many people as possible’. The removed the net worth minimum, and they reduced the price.”
Hilaire has been a vocal critic of the government’s management of the island’s citizenship by investment programme, raising it in parliament on multiple occasions.
“It is badly run,” he explained during a sit down with WIC News.
“Their decisions have ignored all of the concerns people had just to run a cheaper programme.
“They promote it as a though anyone with US$100,000 can then get their hands on a St Lucian passport. You don’t even need to show your need worth.”
Less is a success
Earlier this year Chastanet was criticised for announcing changes to the citizenship by investment programme that would slash the amount of money the country keeps from each transaction and allow citizenship to be passed on to descendants.
This move was quickly scorned by the SLP, with Hilaire only last month labelling the plans as “quite foolish”.
But it is the prime minister’s attitude towards the vetting of applicants that worries the SLP.
Among Caribbean citizenship by investment programmes, exhaustive due diligence is a factor that every one promotes as being of the utmost importance.
But the government in St Lucia has been charged with having a more cavalier attitude towards citizenship safekeeping, a trait that the opposition will be looking to clear up if they form the next government.
“We went through extreme lengths to have a robust and rated due diligence system,” Hilaire said.
“This changed under the government. One of the first things they did with the DHS [Desert Star Holdings project] is say that all the applicants would be approved with 35 days. This is ridiculous.
“It says to us that it is more important to get approval than to have a through due diligence process. It was because of this that we – the Labour Party – decided that when we get back into power we will review every applicant that has been approved under this government and ensure they have all met the statutory requirements.”
Hilaire points out the lack of transparency surrounding St Lucia’s citizenship by investment scheme, noting that three people turned down by the due diligence department went on to have the applications approved directly by the prime minister – something Chastanet has not explained to parliament.
“We would want to review under what conditions he, as prime minister, felt he could overturn the application,” said Hilaire.
“Our view remains that we need to check everything that has been approved under this government.”
WIC News has approached the government for comment on the subjects in this story but have not yet heard a response.