(KHALEEJ TIMES) – Nestor Alfred, the Director of the Citizen by Investment Unit (CIU) of St. Lucia, is a visionary person and has instant solutions for your quest of global citizenship.
He is articulate, and commands immense respect for his professional excellence, as he deals with international investment, anti-money-laundering and anti-terror financing. He is the point man for St. Lucia as it opens itself for the outside world.
The CEO of Citizenship by Investment Programme, since August 2017, has big plans as he promotes his island-nation state. His credentials as an expert in financial regulations give him the necessary tools to beef up St. Lucia’s due diligence processes. He is also the Commissioner to the CARICOM Competition Commission.
In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Alfred said that St. Lucia is the most promising destination for people who want to identify themselves with a second home. He said the prime objective of CIP is to attract “reputable” clientele from around the world, and ensure the development of the Caribbean island on modern lines.
He enthrals logic as he says that investment is a means to an end, and “Our prime concern is security considerations as we evaluate credentials of applicants for citizenship.” “We make sure that wrong people do not end up having our passport, and in this regard, we have a fool-proof mechanism to vet an applicant’s background checks and the veracity of finances,” he pointed out. St. Lucia has visa-free entry protocol with around 135 countries.
He said this is why St. Lucia’s CIU programme is run by the government, and “it has not been outsourced.” Alfred, who heads the five-member Board of Directors, said, “We have studied our strengths and pitfalls minutely, and we do have proper legislation in this regard. A mechanism of effective monitoring, scrutiny and intelligence sharing with respective states make it a competitive programme and brings in due credibility for international citizens who go on to invest their money and trust in St. Lucia. It is one of the Caribbean’s newest economic citizenship options and has won laurels for its integrity and utility.
Alfred made it a point to say that St. Lucia will never grant citizenship unless intelligence clearance is obtained. At the same time, he said, those who have ever been denied a visa from any respective country with which St. Lucia has a visa-free travel protocol are ineligible. He said the diligence committee is mandated to look into money-laundering, terror financing, tax evasion and concealment of truth issues before making a final decision on eligibility. Nonetheless, Alfred said that there is a right to appeal against denial of security clearance, and the diligence committee will look into the points raised by the applicant to ensure that reservations are addressed, accordingly.
This is why St. Lucia has one of the greatest transparent citizenship by investment programmes in the world. Alfred said, “We are a unit that is involved in the processing of applications, and one can always relate the improvements of the programme in regard to the numbers of applications it has received over a period of time. Only last year, 78 applicants were awarded citizenship. While we received more than 279 applications in the year 2017-18, this goes on to establish the popularity of our programme.”
Apart from the investment profile, Alfred confided that the government is also studying the options of diversifying the portfolio for citizenship. “Attracting foreign direct investments is our goal. We hereby plan to target the tourism industry, which is the biggest revenue earner for St. Lucia. He went on to explain, “One of the primary reasons why people choose to obtain a second citizenship is to exercise freedom of mobility, and St. Lucia inevitably remains their top choice.”
Alfred said that the issue of granting of citizenship does not rest with the government, but with the CIP Board of Directors under his command. The reasons are many, and the prime among them is to ensure that there is no room for complicity or discretionary favours, as all the applicants undergo a stringent scrutiny process. “This aspect makes it transparent enough and is independent of government influence,” the CEO said, “the government has laid down policy, and the CIP operates as a governmental agency in collaboration with a number of regional and international agencies to vet the candidates.”
St. Lucia’s prime merits are its passport’s viability as well as the freedom to travel to more than 135 countries. Alfred said that people working in the UAE may at some point in time consider obtaining a second citizenship as tools for expansion, and St. Lucia has answers to their dreams. He elucidated the potentials of St. Lucia, saying the Caribbean has produced some of the best doctors, engineers and educationists. The educational system in that part of the world, inherited from Britain, is competitive and second to none in meritocracy. Alfred said a large number of applicants come from the UAE, the MENA region and China.
The CIP boss spelt out the four kinds of investment programmes at work:
*The National Economic Fund grants citizenship on a donation of $100,000.
*Real Estate: St. Lucia plans to tap investors for its five-star hotels and high-end restaurants.
*Approved Enterprise Programme with a minimum investment of $300,000, in the fields of infrastructure, medical universities, etc.
*The Government Bonds: $500,000-plus fixed investment in five-year bonds, etc.
In all the above categories, not only is the applicants’ security clearance a must, but the source of funds is also investigated as per norms of international regulations.
Outlining the indispensability of St. Lucia, Alfred said it has a stable government and has been free from the uprising and other fissures. The crime rate is the lowest in the region, and it has a vibrant services sector. Its domestic financial sector is quite dynamic and consists of international banks, offshore financial companies and provides a perfect environment for optimisation.
The focus of CIP, he said, is to generate investment, promote economic development and encourage people of repute worldwide to make St. Lucia their second home.
Listing out the improvement to the CIP plans to have in the citizenship programme, Alfred said, “What happens in the world impacts us as well, and we are conscious of emerging realities, and would thus be considerate, accordingly. The strained relationship between the United States and Iran is a case in point. The Caribbean island while situated in the backyard of the US has to be mindful of Washington’s concerns regarding Iranians getting St. Lucia passport, as well as the sanctions that are in vogue. This has impacted our business, but we have to comply.”
To a question, the CIP top officer said, “We do not discriminate by caste, creed and region, and welcome people from any part of the world to apply for our citizenship programme, and that also includes people in diaspora or a third country.
Alfred said that the CIP is eager to create new synergies from around the world and build St. Lucia as the haven for international investments. “Our investment programme is credible, enjoys the highest integrity and is secure enough.”