Call for End to St Kitts’ Visa-Free Access to EU Over Citizenship By Investment Concerns

BASSETERRE, St Kitts, Wednesday May 29, 2019 – Two Members of the European Parliament are seeking to have St Kitts and Nevis’ visa-free programme with the European Union (EU) revoked, over what they say are “questionable” individuals getting passports under the twin-island federation’s Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme.

The EU signed
a visa waiver agreement with St Kitts and Nevis in 2009, allowing citizens of
that Caribbean nation to enter the Schengen zone for up to 90 days in any
180-day period.

But in a letter sent to the Presidents of the European Council and European Commission and other top EU officials earlier this month, Ana Gomes of Portugal and Marietje Schaake of the Netherlands expressed their concern about that visa-free access to the EU.

To support
their case, they identified situations in which individuals who obtained St
Kitts and Nevis citizenship through the CBI programme were found to be involved
in criminal activity, and also pointed out that even Canada had revoked
visa-free access for citizens of St Kitts and Nevis.

One of the
three individuals they highlighted was Andrei Pavlov, a Russian suspected of
being involved in the 2009 murder of Russian auditor Sergei Magnitsky who
uncovered a major tax scam. The MPs said Pavlov applied for a St Kitts and
Nevis passport in 2014, around the time the European Parliament was considering
adding him to its Magnitsky Sanction List for his central role in the Klyuev
Organised Crime Group which was responsible for organising the financial crime
that Magnitsky had discovered. And they noted that since being added to that list,
Pavlov has also been sanctioned under Magnitsky Acts in the United States,
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

“It has
recently come to our attention through emails from Mr Pavlov that he engaged
with several law firms – including Daniel Brantley – to obtain citizenship of
St Kitts and Nevis. In his correspondence, they advertised the benefit of
having visa-free travel to the European Union. It has also come to our
attention that between 2015 and 2019 Andrei Pavlov has made over 70 trips to
the European Union from Russia,” Gomes and Schaake wrote.

However, Pavlov
never obtained the St Kitts and Nevis citizenship. He said he did not go
through with the CBI application after his initial inquiries.

The UK
Guardian quoted him as saying in an emailed statement: “I have never applied
for or [been] granted any citizenship other than Russian. I don’t have any
plans to acquire St Kitts and Nevis citizenship. I am not intended to comment
whether I had these plans years ago. After December 2017 I never instructed any
professional in order to obtain any foreign citizenship for myself.”

But Gomes
and Schaake said Pavlov was “not the only questionable individual to use St
Kitts and Nevis’ Citizenship by Investment”.

They also
cited the case of Iranian born Hasheminejad Ali Sadr – currently awaiting trial
in the US for a variety of charges including money laundering – who obtained St
Kitts and Nevis citizenship in 2011 and got his banking licence in Malta in
2013 on the basis of that passport.

The third
individual case they mentioned was that of Malaysian financier Jho Low who was granted
citizenship in 2011. He was indicted in the US in 2018 for conspiring to
launder billions of dollars in illegal proceeds and to pay hundreds of millions
of dollars in bribes to various Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials. His St Kitts
and Nevis citizenship was revoked that same year.

“Additionally,
several Iranian nationals designated by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control
have managed to obtain passports issued through St Kitts and Nevis. The
situation got so bad that in 2014 Canada revoked visa-free access for citizens
of St. Kitts and Nevis,” the MPs added. “The US Financial Crimes Enforcement
Network has also publicly stated that it believes that many foreign individuals
have abused the Citizenship by Investment programme sponsored by St Kitts and
Nevis.”

Expressing
concern that non-EU countries, such as St Kitts and Nevis, have visa-free
travel and bypass sanctions, allowing undesirable individuals to enter the EU
and misuse their access for money laundering and other criminal purposes, they told
the EU officials: “We urge you to consider terminating the visa free status
programme with St Kitts and Nevis unless their authorities can provide full
confidence that individuals, such as Mr Pavlov, are not slipping through the
cracks, allowing them access to the European Union.”

After being elected in February 2015, the new Team Unity administration in St Kitts and Nevis undertook a review and overhaul of the CBI programme for which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had congratulated the government and for which it has received awards and recognition.

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