Amid sanctions, Dominica welcomes investment from Russian oligarchs


While three European Union (EU) countries, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta offering ‘golden passports’ are all phasing out or considering ending their golden visa programs, a number of Caribbean island nations, including Dominica are welcoming Russian oligarchs to secretly offload their cash. According to media reports, the 12 EU countries offering golden visas, or residency permits for investments, including Greece, Spain and Hungary, are also now considering new limits or phasing them out.

Britain also is planning to abolish its golden visa program, which gives foreign nationals a path to residency if they invest at least US$2.7 million.

As of the end of March 2020, the UK government issued 2,581 visas to Russian citizens under the program since its launch in 2008. A report commissioned on the program by lawmakers in 2020 concluded that “the UK welcomed Russian money, and few questions — if any — were asked about the provenance of this considerable wealth”.

Although the United Kingdom may now abolish its scandalous golden visa program, by now hundreds of corrupt individuals, terrorists, militancy-funders, drug and arms dealers and Interpol wanted fugitives have succeeded in taking advantage of golden visa.

The United States this week also overhauled its own investor-visa program. Lawmakers in Congress reached a deal to reform and reauthorize the EB-5 visa program, which allows foreign investors to apply for green cards after investing in real-estate, infrastructure or other projects. The changes included increasing the required investment in high-unemployment areas to US$800,000 from US$500,000, while the required US$1 million investment for other projects will increase by US$50,000.

The changes also include more monitoring of the programs and detailed screening of applications by the Department of Homeland Security to include criminal background, national security checks and financial compliance. The EB-5 program, launched in 1993, has become a valued source of cheap capital for real-estate developers, since EB-5 investors generally don’t require sizable returns because they’re also getting American visas.

The business of selling citizenships to the world’s wealthy has grown into a US$20 billion industry. Now “golden passport” programs are under fire as a result of the crackdown on Russian oligarchs.

Russian billionaires have been among the world’s largest buyers of multiple citizenships, using alternate passports to help protect their assets and allow freer travel. Yet sweeping sanctions against Putin’s oligarchs has led governments to limit and, in some cases, end their lucrative pay-for-passport programs.

The EU Parliament voted this week to phase out citizenship-by-investment programs run by some EU countries. European leaders said the programs have become a “backdoor for dirty money” and created an easy financial route allowing many oligarchs to live and conduct business in Europe.

According to credible media reports, Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit has been playing direct role in accepting cash from dubious individuals from around the world, including Russian oligarchs and ultra-rich. Another source said, in addition to selling citizenship and even diplomatic positions in exchange for cash, Prime Minister Skerrit has secret financial dealings with several individuals from Russia, Iran, India and Nigeria and been hiding millions of dollars under the garb of several shell companies in a third country.

The source further said, corrupt individuals and ultra-rich from Nigeria, Iran and Russia have offloaded millions of dollars in Dominica under direct supervision of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, where Skerrit received a fraction of the amount as “service charge”. Following imposition of sanctions of several oligarch from Russia, Dominica authorities, particularly agents of Roosevelt Skerrit in London are contacting Russians with the offer of “safely placing their fund”.

It also said, Roosevelt Skerrit maintains agents in London and some other cities in the world to deal into dirty money. For Skerrit, Ukraine crisis has emerged as a grand opportunity as he may succeed in hiding billions of dollars of the Russian oligarchs.

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