A large number of fugitive criminals, some of whom even are wanted by Interpol are easily acquiring passports of the Caribbean island nations, including Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, St Lucia etcetera under the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program.
Few years ago, Harris Ahmed, then a fugitive on the Most Wanted list of the law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh succeeded in acquiring passport of Antiqua & Barbuda under CBI program using alias and began travelling to many countries and finally began commercial activities in Hungary by forming alliance with an individual named Zulkarnain Saer Khan Sami.
Although authorities of the Caribbean island nations claim to be granting citizenship and issuing passport after “due diligence”, this particular case clearly proves – any investigation of its CBI applicants are completely bogus.
All passport holders whose information does not specify that they are native-born citizens of Antigua & Barbuda should be considered by compliance officers to be possible foreign criminals, unless cleared through Enhanced Due Diligence investigation, conducted by an experienced, objective agency. Antigua allowed Haris Ahmed to use an alias on his passport, to further skip arrest and dodge legal consequences, while Hungary and few other European countries were in total dark about criminal record of this individual.
Sources confirm that Ahmed has bragged to friends and acquaintances that he and his wife regularly use their CBI passports.
Although Antigua alleges that its check out all CBI applicants through the us embassy in Barbados, this has been denied by the US authorities.
Hamas terrorists obtaining CBI passports
Back in 2018, ‘Sweet Homes’ villa in Ajman, the United Arab Emirates was openly advertising citizenship in Antigua to all of its customers in exchange for AED 1.4 million. A fair reading of the above advertisement indicated that individuals who purchase a residence in Ajman, United Arab Emirates will automatically be able to acquire a CBI passport from Antigua & Barbuda. While the government of Antigua has gone to great pains to emphasize that the applicants must duly qualify, the thrust of the marketing pitch of the developer, Sweet Homes Group, is that purchasers of one will quickly end up with the other. Given the long history of abysmal performance of due diligence investigations into CBI applicants in the East Caribbean, and the rumor that no applicant who has tendered funds for an Ajman property has been denied a CBI passport, any such assurances are meaningless.
Moreover, since the real estate purchase only called for only a five percent down payment at closing, and that prized Antiguan passport, which allows individuals from high-risk/sanctioned/terrorist supporting jurisdictions visa-free access to EU and Commonwealth countries, can be had, without spending an extraordinary outlay of cash, which other CBI programs demand.
Now, on to even more serious territory; students of modern Middle East history know that Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was the sole Arab organization that supported Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion, and brutal occupation, of Kuwait. After the First Gulf War, virtually all the expatriate Palestinians residing in Kuwait fled, or were expelled, and a number relocated to the UAE. Palestinians, including those who identify politically with Hamas, were aware of Ajman’s pro-Palestinian policies, wherever they were residing. Hamas has government support in the Emirates, and its leaders cannot help but to be attracted to the project’s plum prize passport.
Additionally, Hamas agents could easily access information about this UAE-based company – Sweet Homes Group, complete a purchase, and go on to take possession of the property and passport, all without ever having to visit Antigua or Barbuda. Those leaders under OFAC or international sanctions were also being able to evade identification by transliterating their legal names into slightly altered aliases, in the English language, allowing them worry-free international travel.
Only when a comprehensive list of all issued CBI passports is published will we be able to determine how many have been delivered to Palestinians linked to Hamas. The stated purpose of CBI programs is to create cash flow for a developing country, including the purchase of local real estate investments by the applicants, creating jobs, as well as fees for economic passports, both of which impact the jurisdiction. This perverted version of CBI does not help Antigua & Barbuda recover from hurricane damage, and it results in totally unsuitable individuals, from high risk countries obtaining passports, which could be used for terrorist financing purposes.
Antigua diplomat faces charges of money-laundering
Back in 2019 in the aftermath of the fallout surrounding the American money laundering indictment of Alex Nain Saab Moran, the Antiguan Economic Envoy, who holds a diplomatic passport from Antigua & Barbuda, the government is desperately trying to distance itself from the scandal. Saab is a Colombian national of Middle Eastern extraction; in fact, when his accountant and auditor were arrested in Colombia, and Saab was a known fugitive from justice in Colombia, the Antiguan government was still singing his praises.
In a thinly-disguised press release appearing in local media, purporting to originate from the Foreign Ministry, but actually issued by Maurice Merchant, the press agent in the office of Prime Minister Gaston Browne, the fact that Antigua is not specifically named in the indictment is employed to allegedly show that Saab passed no illicit financial transactions through its banks, and that he was not really involved in Antigua. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In truth and in fact, the SAAB indictment alleges that the defendant, and his partner, Alvaro Pulido Vargas, also a named defendant in the criminal case, laundered the proceeds of crime through US banks, especially those located in Miami, and the money then went onward into tax havens abroad. Considering that Saab owned an offshore bank in Antigua, and also moved money through one of Antigua’s largest locally-owned banks, we must assume that Antigua is one of those unnamed offshore financial centers.
Additionally, where Merchant claims Saab had only a minor connection with Antigua, perhaps he would care to explain how A & B Prime Minister Gaston Browne publicly stated that Saab was a “close personal friend,” and that he was destined to assist Antigua to develop to its total potential. Antiguan businessman, with Browne’s approval, visited a factory in Venezuela said to be owned by Saab.
It was PM Browne that named Saab Economic Envoy, and sold him that diplomatic passport, when he was already listed as a high-risk individual in the databases used by the world’s financial institutions, and for due diligence purposes. Does this mean Antigua does not check out foreign applicants whom is sells diplomatic passports to for cash ?
I am afraid that it is a bit too late from Browne to claim that Saab was only an acquaintance; We wonder just how the Saab indictment reflects the level of ongoing US law enforcement investigations into money laundering and official corruption in Antigua.