For most people, a passport comes from being born in a country, having a parent from there, marrying a citizen or applying for naturalization. But there are some countries, such as the Caribbean island nations, where citizenship can be obtained in exchange for financial donations and so-called investments. In recent days, calls are being made to scrap these schemes, especially amid revelations that dozens of crooks and suspected criminals have benefited from escaping justice or stash away embezzled funds.
Dominica, an island country in the Caribbean region is actively involved in international money laundering and drug trafficking. Hundreds of foreign individuals using Dominica’s diplomatic passports are using their diplomatic immune in carrying drugs and cash. Most importantly, all of such illegal activities of the authorities of Dominica are actively abetted by some individuals and companies based in Britain.
In this article, international media, as well as law enforcement agencies around the world will get lots of specific information on Dominica’s active involvement in money laundering and drug trafficking.
According to the US Department of State Money Laundering Assessment (INCRS), Dominica is categorized by it as a Country/Jurisdiction of Primary Concern in respect of Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
It was reported that Dominica acts as a conduit for the washing of dirty money by international drug traffickers.
The state department has listed Dominica among over 90 major money laundering countries, putting in the company of states such as Afghanistan, Columbia, Russia, and the US itself, “whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking”.
“Money laundering cases involve external proceeds from fraudulent investment schemes, advance fee fraud schemes, and the placement of euros related to questionable activities conducted in other surrounding jurisdictions,” the report, which states the list is not a blacklist, says about Dominica.
“Domestic money laundering is chiefly linked to narcotics activities.”
It describes Dominica as an offshore center with a considerable international business center (IBC) presence and internet gaming, and which is used as “a transshipment point for narcotics and other criminal activities” due to its geographic location between the French departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique.
On April 16, 2019, Dominica News Online reported, Dominica and all major Caribbean and Central American countries have been listed as major money laundering jurisdictions.
That’s according to the latest US International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) – Volume Two, dedicated to money laundering – for the year 2018.
The offending countries – listed in alphabetical order – have been identified as follows: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Maarten, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.
The report states that with the assistance of a donor, Dominica has begun a National Risk Assessment (NRA).
“Dominica reports there are currently 13 offshore banks regulated by the Financial Services Unit (FSU), which also licenses and supervises credit unions, insurance companies, internet gaming companies, and the country’s economic citizenship program,” the report says.
According to the report, the government of Dominica indicated early on that narcotics and cybercrime are the major sources of illicit funds.
“The country’s geographical location and porous borders raise risks for narcotics trafficking,” the report states.
Additionally, foreign nationals from Europe, South America, and Asia have used automated teller machines in Dominica to skim money from European bank accounts by exploiting security deficiencies.
“The preliminary vulnerabilities identified by the NRA are inadequate AML training for the judiciary and the prosecutorial authorities, lack of awareness of new AML/CFT procedures by key law enforcement agencies, and ineffective supervision of DNFBPs,” it stated.
The report is accusing Dominica of not consistently using available regional mechanisms, such as the Joint Regional Communications Center (JRCC), to properly vet candidates under its Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP).
It said the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CBIU) does not always deny citizenship to those who are red-flagged or given negative dispositions from the JRCC and other institutions.
“There are also increasing concerns about the expansion of these programs due to the visa-free travel and the ability to open bank accounts accorded these individuals,” the report stated.
What is golden-passport?
A “golden passport” is one obtained through a citizenship by investment (CBI) scheme. Instead of a naturalization test, applicants are required to inject a sizable amount of money into the country they are looking for buying citizenship.
A number of companies are working as agents of the countries offering golden-visa.
“Obtaining a second passport could be the best investment you ever make, for increased global mobility and personal security, business and tax exemption,” Astons, a UK-based firm that describes itself as an investment immigration and relocation provider, says on its website.
“Citizenship-by-Investment programs offer you the opportunity to legally acquire a new citizenship quickly and simply, without any disruptions to your life,” notes Henley & Partners, another company specializing in residence and citizenship planning.
CS Global Partners, a UK-based company that works as an agent of Dominica is handling the ‘golden visa’ project, says on its website: “Developed in 1993 and reformed in 2014, the Commonwealth of Dominica’s Citizenship by Investment Programme has been ranked as the number one CBI initiative for three consecutive years by the CBI Index, a publication of the Financial Times’ Professional Wealth Management (PWM) magazine. The programme focuses on the overall quality and integrity of its applicants, only accepting individuals of outstanding character and repute. To ensure only credible persons of excellent standing are granted citizenship, comprehensive due diligence checks are performed on all applicants older than 18 years of age.
“For those who meet Dominica’s citizenship requirements, the idyllic Caribbean island offers one of the best standards of living in the region. Dominica is politically and economically stable, with a low crime rate and rich investment opportunity. Nicknamed the “Nature Island”, it is also one of the most beautiful places on earth, with a pristine coastline, acres of unspoiled tropical rainforest, incredible marine biodiversity, and a number of natural hot springs thanks to its volcanic origin”.
CS Global Partners, in addition to its office in London, has also a presence in UAE, India, China, Singapore and Saint Kitts island. Micha Emmett is the Chief Executive Officer of this company, while Paul Singh, an Indian-British is the director. This company is particularly active in helping Indian nationals is buying Dominica’s citizenship, although, according to Indian laws, buying citizenship of any other country without prior permission of the authorities concerned is illegal. What is more important is, these Indian nationals buying citizenship of Dominica are draining-out millions of dollars through illegal channels, and assumably, in most cases, those agency firms dealing in the ‘golden visa’ projects are playing an active role in money laundering. Britain though is known for one of the top destinations of dirty money, it is a matter of great surprise that companies registered in the United Kingdom are openly involved in money laundering, while it is alleged that a major segments of these laundered monies are coming from drug traffickers and corrupt individuals.
Most importantly, for buying Dominica citizenship, it is not required to visit that island country. S/he can obtain citizenship, simply by making the payment – sitting thousands of miles away.
Criminals buying foreign nationality
One of the most infamous fugitives in the world, Jho Low – the Malaysian financier behind the massive 1MDB scandal, now sought by three countries for corruption and money laundering – acquired Cypriot citizenship “despite background checks raising several red flags.
Mehul Choksi, an Indian diamond merchant sought by Interpol, gained Antigua and Barbuda nationality in 2017 shortly before being charged with bank fraud and avoided prosecution by fleeing to the island nation.
Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, obtained a passport from Montenegro a few years after he was convicted in absentia of graft.
An Al Jazeera investigation revealed that out of over 2,500 people who received a passport as part of the Cyprus Investment Programme between 2017 and 2019, dozens faced criminal charges in another country, had a prior conviction, or were under international sanctions.
These included Mykola Zlochevsky, a Ukrainian energy tycoon and former minister wanted by Kyiv for corruption; Pham Nhat Vu, a Vietnamese businessman who was facing trial when his application was approved and is now in jail for bribery; Iranians Maleksabet Ebrahimi and his son Mehdi, both on Interpol’s wanted list for money laundering, fraud and counterfeiting; and Russian banking brothers Dmitry and Alexei Ananiev, who are accused in Russia of embezzlement and money laundering and are also under sanctions from Ukraine.
The cases of criminals holding Dominica passport
A Dutch businessman who was known to be a wealthy resident of Dominica, and who held a Dominica Citizenship by Investment (CBI) passport, has been returned to the Netherlands, where he is said to face major money laundering charges in Europe. He is the latest dodgy foreign national who obtained a CBI passport in Dominica to have been subsequently arrested on serious criminal charges abroad.
Ronald Pieter Nolen was taken into custody by Dutch law enforcement authorities in Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, and transferred to the Netherlands, where he reportedly has been accused of being a major money launderer. Nolen, who lived in Dominica, by virtue of his CBI passport, maintained an affluent lifestyle there for several years. He was known for throwing lavish parties in his home, attended by members of the ruling Labour Party, including the Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit.
These upscale celebrations are said, by those familiar with them, to be just like those hosted by another CBI passport holder, Alireza Monfared, the Iranian national now in custody in his native country, on charges he, together with partners that included Reza Zarrab and Babak Zanjani, stole billions of dollars in illegal oil sales profits. The circumstances of Monfared’s arrest, by Iranian law enforcement agents in the Dominican Republic, are strangely similar to those of Nolen, who also was close to Dominica’s most senior government officials, until he was removed from the country, after pressure from foreign law enforcement.
Ronald Pieter Nolen imported into Dominica as least fifty automobiles, many of which were luxury Mercedes Benz vehicles, which he gave as gifts to a number of prominent Dominicans. Automobiles, especially high-value premium vehicles, are a well-known method of money launderers, who are seeking to clean dirty money; Hezbollah, for example, was engaged in a massive operation to purchase cars in North America and transport them abroad, for that purpose.
Nolen owned two Dominica shell companies, and used Dominica nationals as front men, to pose as the individuals in control; these companies were engaged in import operations, but whether they were a part of any money laundering scheme is not known. In fact, no details of Nolen’s criminal case are not publicly available, and they appear to have been concealed by Dominica government officials, who fear public response to yet another arrest of a CBI passport holder.
One source stated that the name appearing upon Nolen’s CBI passport is not his legal name, but since Dominica is not transparent about public disclosure of the names of CBI passport holders, we are unable to confirm this information.
An individual with the same exact name is listed as being involved with corporations in Switzerland and we are investigating a number of leads, regarding details of Nolen’s alleged money laundering activities, which will appear here when the research is completed. We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of our Dominica sources in assisting with this article.
More troubling information about Dominica
While corrupt politicians in Dominica are raking in cash, hand over fist, the rest of the country’s impoverished population is literally dying, in a public health crisis that is the worst in the Western Hemisphere, and it has nothing to do with either the last hurricane or the previous tropical storm. If someone is living in Dominica, they have the risk of an early death from cancer, as the government blissfully ignores the individuals who elected them into office.
On June 3, 2018, The Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology published the results of its global cancer study, under the auspices of the University of Washington. The study, which covers 195 countries, found that Dominica has the third-highest death by cancer rate in the world, specifically 203.1 per 100,000 of the population.
Dominica leads in prostate cancer deaths, with 54.9 deaths per 100,000 of the population.
These findings cannot be attributed to Hurricane Maria, as they are statistics from the year 2016. They are indicative of neglect of domestic health services over a prolonged period of time, while Dominica’s cash flow, from its lucrative CBI passport sales program, was diverted from supporting public health needs, and much of which cannot be accounted for.
In April of 2018, the Dominica Nursing Association placed the blame squarely upon the government for nurses leaving the profession in droves, because of poor pay and working conditions. Even though there is severe chronic unemployment in Dominica, in May the government announced that twenty Cuban nationals would be imported, to address the nursing shortage, according to Dominica News Online.
Some observers have compared the Commonwealth of Dominica to the Republic of Haiti, where corrupt kleptocrats skim off all the country’s wealth, leaving their countrymen destitute and unemployed, and living in a failed state, but these statistics actually show that a resident of Dominica will most likely pass away before a citizen of Haiti. That sad fact is totally ignored by Dominica’s corrupt officials, who can visit the best doctors that Switzerland has to offer, while they visit their fat Swiss bank accounts.
EU’s security at stake
Golden passports have long been problematic, aside from the idea that the wealthy can seemingly buy any passport they want, whereas common mortals go through years of applications and residence requirements.
The OECD warned in 2018 that CBI schemes “can create the potential for misuse as tools to hide assets held abroad.” Canada revoked visa-free travel for St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda over worries about their lax citizenship programs.
But CBI schemes have been especially concerning to the EU, where a passport from one-member state allows free movement throughout all 27, providing a “back door” into other countries, often without their knowledge.
Investors may seek EU citizenship “for legitimate reasons, but may also be pursuing illegitimate ends, such as evading law enforcement investigation and prosecution in their home country and protecting their assets from… freezing and confiscation measures,” the European Commission noted in a report last year.
It warned of security risks for the whole Union, including “the possibility of infiltration of non-EU organized crime groups… money laundering, corruption and tax evasion”.
Calls for actions
In response, the European Parliament called on member states “to phase out all existing CBI or RBI schemes as soon as possible.”
Cyprus passed a new law restricting who could apply for citizenship and in November announced it was stripping 26 foreign investors of their golden passports.
Now MEPs are urging more decisive action from Brussels, following the Al Jazeera revelations. “National governments are selling what is not theirs to sell: EU citizenship,” Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld tweeted.
European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said he was looking into possible legal action against Cyprus over its CBI program but made clear it was up to Cypriot authorities to handle the issue.
For countries like Cyprus, Bulgaria, Moldova, Vanuatu, or Dominica, investments represent a key source of revenue. Cyprus has reportedly made about 7 billion euros (8.26 billion U.S. dollars) from its passport program since 2013. St. Kitts and Nevis’s CBI program has been said to contribute between 25 and 30 percent of GDP. They may not be willing to give up on this very quickly.
Members of the international media as well as law enforcement agencies should immediately investigate the cases of ‘golden visa’ offered by various nations, including Dominica, while there should also be proper investigations on the citizenship offering countries in the Caribbean islands, as they are accepting dirty monies and even helping international drug trafficking networks.