Prime Minister Gaston Browne has responded to the report of Nigerian scammers having acquired Antigua and Barbuda passports through the Citizenship by Investment Programme, saying the claims have not yet been verified.
While he questions the authenticity of the travel documents, however, copies of the bio pages of the passports clearly display the country’s watermark – the twin windmills of Betty’s Hope Estate.
Antigua & Barbuda’s coat of arms are also displayed on the Certificates of Citizenship by Registration scrutinized by REAL News, and the husband and wife’s serial numbers are in consecutive order. Their son’s registration number appears to follow that of his mother.
During a sitting of the Lower House today, Browne says he saw the article about the fugitive couple in a WhatsApp message. He claims that measures will be put in place to stop them from landing here – if they are not on island already.
The Prime Minister says that Antigua and Barbuda is not a safe haven for criminals, nor is the CIP programme to be used as such.
Instead, he says it was designed to attract reputable investors and not criminal elements.
Meanwhile, one national on island contends that the Prime Minister is “talking stupidness.”
He points to the ongoing legal matter of Mehul Choksi, who is fighting Browne’s efforts to remove him from Antigua & Barbuda and claiming the rights of citizenship – despite charges being laid against him in his native India.
“How are you going to prevent these people (the Nigerians) from landing here when you just gave them citizenship?” the man asks. “How you going to get them out of the country if they’re already here? This is now their home legally!” he says loudly.
Legal pundits have agreed that CIP citizens are entitled to the same rights and protections as other classes, and therefore political declarations and actions must conform with the Constitution and the law.