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Bermudan MP cites Concern about Citizenship and Investment Programme of St.Kitts and Nevis as Canada axes commercial immigration.
Is there a lesson for Bermuda ?
By Danny McDonald, Friday, February 14, 2014 7:50 AM
Canada is scrapping its commercial immigration programme.
The Huffington Post reports the Canadian government has ceased its “Immigrant Investor Programme”, which offered permanent Canadian residency in exchange for a three-year investment of at least $150,000. It’s expected to be replaced with a new initiative that will match skilled immigrants with labour market needs, according to the Post.
“We should be observant of such things,” said Walter Roban, the PLP’s Shadow Minister of Home Affairs.
“Canada has suspended the programme because of the [lack of] quality of applicants. People were getting permission to stay in the country and they weren’t happy with the results.”
The OBA-led government has floated the idea of reforming commercial immigration in Bermuda.
Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy, however, suggested comparing Bermuda and Canada may be a case of apples and oranges. He also said Bermuda has the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others.
He said: “Of course, in jurisdictions as large as Canada with thousands of applicants every year spread among various provinces, the opportunity for abuse is much larger than a small jurisdiction.
“Given the existence of the British Nationality Act, should a commercial immigration regime be introduced in Bermuda, applicants would need to reside in Bermuda for five years before being able to apply for a BOTC passport — during which time certain criteria would likely have to be followed –— such as a proven investment, or jobs for Bermudians or other related criteria.
PLP MP Walton Brown Jr lived in Canada for a decade. He said the government there created the commercial immigration programme during the 1980s in a direct appeal to wealthy Hong Kong Chinese nationals who had their claim to British citizenship stripped with the passing of the British Nationality Act 1981.
The idea, said Mr Brown, was to allow such people the opportunity to send their wealth to Canada before Hong Kong came under Chinese sovereignty in 1997, after a century of British rule.
“The experience has clearly not been of great benefit to Canada economically and this explains why the government acted this week to end commercial immigration,” said Mr. Brown in an e-mail. “It is noteworthy that Canada charged less than $1 million while other countries have charged up to $5 million.”
Often people seek such commercial immigration programmes to evade taxes or hide assets, said Mr Roban.
He cited instances where commercial immigration programmes have gone awry, including the saga of Allen Stanford, a billionaire dual citizen of Antigua and the US, who was convicted of selling fraudulent certificates of deposit from his Antigua-based offshore bank. The $7 billion Ponzi scheme bilked more than 20,000 investors.
He also mentioned the recent concern about the due diligence and scrutiny — or lack thereof — in the citizenship and investment programme of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“We have to decide if we want our jurisdiction to be a backdoor entry to more developed economies or do we want to maintain a reputation of transparency?” asked Mr Roban. You often can’t have both.”