Top international due diligence expert says the former Government cannot be criticised for granting citizenship
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, May 29th 2017 – A top executive at an international due diligence firm is defending the decision of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) government to approve economic citizenship for a Chinese national now wanted in Beijing for fraud.
Vice Chairman and Global Head of Immigration Citizenship and Visa (ICV) Practice at Exiger Diligence, Kim Marsh told Antigua’s Observer Media on the sidelines of the 2nd Annual Citizenship by Investment Conference in Antigua and Barbuda.
“I don’t think (St. Kitts and Nevis) can be criticised for that because as we’ve heard this week, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand have all experienced this. You can have the best system in the world and you can still get people who are undesirables,” Marsh is quoted by Antigua’s Observer Media.
The diligence expert said St. Kitts & Nevis “can demonstrate they have a proper process in place and they did what was required” with the individual only later being declared a fugitive after acquiring citizenship.
The Timothy Harris-led PLP/CCM/PAM Government has been accused of harbouring Chinese fugitive – Ren Biao – who holds Chinese and St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship, but is accused of swindling over US $100 million from a Chinese state firm.
Marsh reminded the agents that the Government of China – Antigua and Barbuda’s largest market for citizenship – is “cracking down on corruption.”
“Because of this, high net-worth Chinese nationals who may be targeted are looking for a way out – a second citizenship and the passport that comes with it.
“There’s a lot of PEPs (Politically Exposed Persons) on the run coming out of China now … More thought has to be given as to how we are going to analyse these individuals,” Marsh said.
He advised agents and due diligence providers to ask themselves, “How influential was that individual?”
“How far up the pecking order were they and how did they acquire their wealth? Did they have legitimate businesses or were they a government employee and got their wealth through envelopes stuffed with cash?” Marsh told Observer Media.
Marsh was the former president of IPSA International – another global due diligence firm that was recently acquired by Exiger Diligence.
In financial regulation, PEP describes someone who has been entrusted with a prominent public function and therefore presents a higher risk for potential involvement in bribery and corruption by virtue of their position and influence.
When someone applies through the CIP, the agents who process their applications and the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) are required to carry out rigorous due diligence to verify facts such as identity, background, financial history, and sources of wealth, among other things,” said Marsh.
China has openly accused the Team Unity Government of Prime Minister Harris of refusing a request to hand him over to Beijing citing the need for due process.
China has accused the Timothy Harris administration of continuing to stall on the issue.
In a statement from its embassies around the world, the Peoples Republic of China said St. Kitts and Nevis is fast becoming a haven for criminals by harbouring Ren Biao and accused Prime Minister Harris of being uncooperative on the issue. Biao, who is on the Interpol list, is wanted in China for defrauding a state-owned company of US$100 million.
China said it intercepted communication on April 16 in which the fugitive, who is in St. Kitts and is an economic citizen, called relatives in Beijing seeking an additional US$190,000 to help to continue pay for his protection by Kittitian authorities.
The Government first denied having informal or formal information on the matter, but regional media outlet, CaribUpdate said its own investigation revealed that the Ren Biao matter was raised via an unnamed Caribbean country with the Timothy Harris-led Administration in January this year.
“There was a direct request made on the issue of Ren Biao in January to (Miss Kay Bass), the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in St. Kitts and Nevis from the Permanent Secretary of another Caribbean country,” CaribUpdate said.
The regional media house said this was also followed by direct communications between the Head of the Financial Intelligence Unit of St. Kitts and Nevis, Ms. Jacqueline Berry and the same Caribbean country and its counterpart in Basseterre.
CaribUpdate further reported that at the meeting in Basseterre, officials of the Timothy Harris Government and law enforcement officers including members of the High Command were provided with details of the claims of financial impropriety.
The Head of the Financial Service Unit in St. Kitts and Nevis and the Head of the unnamed Caribbean country subsequently met in Basseterre in April this year on the Ren Biao issue.
CaribUpdate also said that Kittitian security officials met with Chinese security officials over the issue in early April this year after they were granted a visa waiver from Basseterre to enter St. Kitts and Nevis.
They were met on arrival at the Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport by St. Kitts security officials on April 14th and spent a week on the island.
Prime Minister Harris has admitted knowledge of the request to handover Biao, but the questions remain, who in his government has been offering protection to Ren and who is collecting the protection money?
CaribUpdate also reported that top security officials in St. Kitts and Nevis have said they cannot locate the Chinese native wanted for fraud in Beijing, after regional counterparts had urged them to have the man interviewed.
CaribUpdate said it had seen a note from a top Kittitian official who is claiming that the man might have changed his location since he is apparently not at the address that they had guided Chinese police agents to in April,
The St. Kitts and Nevis security official could not say whether the man was still in St. Kitts.
Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris claimed that the passport of Ren Biao was among scores of others that were deactivated because it did not have the county of origin information.
But CaribUpdate pointed out that the deactivation of the passport by Prime Minister Harris had nothing to do with Ren Biao on the Interpol Wanted List.
Dr. Harris has not responded to repeated requests from CaribUpdate for a comment on the whereabouts of Ren Biao.
However the questions remain where is Ren Biao, who in the Team unity Government protected him and collected the protection money.