REAL News is standing by an article carried last Friday, March 24, with respect to the speedy provision of Citizenship by Investment passports to Russian applicants, which the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) has since denied.
According to sources, the story said, Prime Minister Gaston Browne reportedly had instructed the staff “to proceed with haste, regardless of the state of the due diligence process,” to approve applications from Russian nationals ahead of the March 31 deadline agreed upon with the United States government.
On Saturday, March 25, the CIU released a statement saying it completely rejects what it describes as “the untruthful report” published by REAL News.
The CIU says the story was malicious, since it identifies its sources as coming out of Washington and “in the diaspora.”
Because no name or agency was identified in the news article, the CIU charges that the story “is evidently contrived by REAL News Antigua for unscrupulous purposes.”
Further, the CIU says it dismisses the “fanciful allegation that it has been instructed by the Prime Minister or any other policy official to discard due diligence processes, which it staunchly applies to all applicants.”
According to the Unit, it will continue to maintain strict and unwavering procedures by its in-house team of compliance specialists; and this will be done in conjunction with international due-diligence providers and global law-enforcement agencies.
It says these procedures are mandatory, and no exceptions are made as it continues to protect the reputation of Antigua and Barbuda and the integrity of the Nation’s passport.
The Unit believes that REAL News is seeking to sully its “good name” and that of its staff, and says it deplores this deliberate attempt of such an action.
In response the CIU press statement, Editor D. Gisele Isaac says that REAL News will not be suckered into revealing its sources to appease the Unit since its policy is to keep its trusted sources confidential.
However, she is inviting the Unit, or even Prime Minister Gaston Browne, to deny the reported claim that all the Russian applicants have been approved.
On the matter of appraisal of applicants, Isaac notes that the Unit, itself, does not name its “in-house team of compliance specialists,” its “international due-diligence providers,” nor the “global law-enforcement agencies” it employs to vet applications.
Ironically, in an opinion piece published in Saturday’s Daily Observer, Isaac lays out several high-profile breaches that have occurred in the granting of passports.
These include to “the Dark Web marketplace designer Alexandre Cazes, who killed himself in a Bangkok jail” and “the still-murky matter of passports manufactured for international clients by a local police officer operating out of St. Vincent.”
The editor says that REAL News will not shirk its responsibility to inform the public and to bring to light the ills taking place in the shadows. Therefore, despite the “half-hearted denial” published by the CIU, Isaac says that REAL News stands by its sources and the information shared.