CIU ordered to process and approve all Russian applications for citizenship regardless of due-diligence status

In an apparent attempt by the Browne Administration to beat the clock set by the United States, the  Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) reportedly has been ordered to process and approve – immediately – all  applications from Russian nationals.

Sources from Washington alerted REAL News of this development on Wednesday, March 22, and local sources confirmed the order yesterday, Thursday.

They all report that the CIU staff were instructed to proceed with haste – regardless of the stage of the due-diligence process – ahead of the March 31 cut-off date to which the governments of Antigua and Barbuda and the United States had agreed.

The Washington sources tell REAL News they were shocked by the order – reportedly given by Prime Minister Gaston Browne – since the move is certain to anger US authorities, as well as the governments of Canada and the European Union.

Only last week it was reported that PM Browne had claimed not to know the CIU was still accepting applications for citizenship from nationals of Russia and Russia-controlled Belarus.

In response to a request from the US Government for the suspension of such applications – on account of the ongoing war in The Ukraine – Browne agreed to a cut-off date of March 31 for processing those already in train.

Grenada has agreed to the same date, while the other regional passport-traders suspended their applications in February.

Locally, several observers tell our Newsroom that Antigua and Barbuda is sending “dangerous mixed signals” to both the United States, its traditional ally, and Russia.

This is especially so since the Browne Administration has made every effort to advance the auction of a super yacht, the Alfa Nero, that is registered to a US-sanctioned Russian oligarch and being claimed by an alleged resident of Moscow.

“What, really, is the Prime Minister about?” a member of the Diaspora wants to know.  “He is selling off Russian property and, at the same time, selling Antiguan property [passports] to the Russians?

“I hope he knows what he’s doing and can handle any repercussions,” the Antiguan abroad says.  “But then again, it’s the people who will suffer any fallout the most.”

Meanwhile, the ownership of three CIP passports is in contention in the High Court of Abuja, Nigeria, in a suit brought by  two businessmen connected to the ill-fated Antigua Airways.