ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Mar 17, CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda government says it “deeply regrets” the position adopted by the United States regarding the country’s Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) and its anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism (AML/CTF) regimes.
Washington outlined its position in the 2017 US International Narcotics Control Strategy Report that the Gaston Browne administration said “misrepresents the situation” here.
It said contrary to the characterization in the Report, Antigua and Barbuda operates a CIP that adheres to the highest international standards and best practices.
“Similarly, with regard to its AML/CTF regime, Antigua and Barbuda has been found by every competent and authoritative international body to be compliant with their rules. These include the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, the Financial Action Task Force and the OECD Global Forum on Tax Information Exchange.
“The government of Antigua and Barbuda is, therefore, perplexed over the depiction in the INCSR 2017, particularly as it provides no evidence of its claims and assertions, many of which bear no attribution or source of information.”
The government said it has invited the US government to “present the evidence supporting the claims and assertions contained in the Report and undertakes, upon the production of such evidence, to rectify any and all proven claims”.
In the Report, Washington claims Antigua and Barbuda is an offshore center which continues to be vulnerable to money laundering and other financial crimes.
It said its relatively large financial sector and internet gaming industry add to its susceptibility and that Antigua and Barbuda also operates a CIP that increases its susceptibility to money laundering and other financial crimes.
“Antigua and Barbuda is a transit point for illegal drugs going to the United States and Europe,” the Report added.
But the government said that “no evidence is provided or any sources given for these bald assertions” and further the reality shows the island has not appeared on the FTAF list of “Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories” since its exit in 2013.
“Indeed, the FTAF states that Antigua and Barbuda has demonstrated “significant progress” in improving its anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism efforts, and is therefore no longer subject to FATF’s monitoring process under its ongoing global AML/CFT compliance process.”
St. John’s said that with regards to the island being a “relatively large financial sector and internet gaming industry” by no stretch of the imagination could Antigua and Barbuda’s financial sector and internet gaming industry be considered even “relatively large”.
“The Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI), widely quoted as a top source for ranking financial centers, has not listed Antigua and Barbuda even amongst the jurisdictions likely to become a significant offshore center as of September, 2016. The number of Offshore International Banks has declined from 16 in 2009 to 11 as at March 2017 – their total assets do not amount to US$2 billion. “
Antigua and Barbuda, which has a long running dispute with the United States over internet gaming, has also brushed aside the Report that describes the sector here as “large”.
“The number of internet gaming companies has been on a steady decline moving from 93 interactive gaming and interactive wagering companies in 2000 to 6 interactive gaming and interactive wagering companies as at March 2017.”
It said the internet gaming sector is regulated by the Financial Sector Regulatory Commission (FSRC) that “ensures that only a natural or legal person that has met a fit and proper test can play a significant role in, or operate a business or legal arrangement”.
Regarding the CIP that several Caribbean countries utilise as a means of attracting foreign investors in return for citizenship, the government here said that it remains “among the most lax in the world.
“An individual is eligible for economic citizenship with a US$400,000 minimum investment in real estate, a contribution to the National Development Fund of US$200,000, or a US$1.5 million approved business investment. Applicants must make a source of funds declaration and provide evidence supporting the declaration.
“The government established a Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) to manage the screening and application process. The CIU does not maintain adequate autonomy from politicians to prevent political interference in its decisions.
“It is absolutely untrue that the CIU does not maintain adequate autonomy from politicians to prevent political interference in its decision. In fact, by a decision of the Cabinet, the CIU’s process and decisions regarding applicants are ring-fenced from intervention by politicians,” the government said in its statement that dismissed several other allegations in the US report.
“The government of Antigua and Barbuda, through its Embassy in Washington, has called on the Government of the United States, in the interest of fairness and equity, to cause the unsubstantiated and harmful claims made in the 2017 INSCR to be corrected publicly in the same way that the Report has been publicized.
“It would also be mutually beneficial if all future reports are mandated to be consultative with the government, including a review of its final text, in order to eliminate unsupported claims and harmful inaccuracies,” the government added.