Steele: Government “proud” of CBI programme

Despite the arrest of two Chinese fugitives from justice who landed Grenadian passports under its controversial Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programme, newly appointed International Business Minister, Nickolas Steele, has defended the passport-selling scheme.

Fu Yaobo and Zhang Qingzhao are back in custody in China after being arrested in St. Vincent &  the Grenadines (SVG) which does not have diplomatic relations with Beijing.

Speaking on behalf of the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, the Health Minister said the arrests of the two Chinese is a sign that the government in St. George’s is “on top of” the CBI programme.

Fu and Zhang were granted Grenadian citizenship under the CBI but they were revoked earlier in the year.

The two have been on China’s 100 most wanted fugitives list that was published in April after being suspected of embezzling US $4.56 million of public funds.

Chinese media reported that the duo had been on the run in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Grenada and St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

Minister Steele said the arrests of the two nationals from China is something that the NNP Administration is “proud of” since it shows that there is a high level of due diligence in the CBI programme.

“That’s shows that the environment which we have created as a result of the CBI is working. It shows that an individual who has escaped the Chinese government, who has escaped Interpol – with our co-operation with both of those entities…it shows that our CBI programme has a level of due diligence that is equal to that of international organisations that exist (in) other countries etc…

“…If …somebody does slip through …they don’t have impunity … there is continued cooperation with all of the friendly nations that also have similar kinds of programmes and that’s what the co-operation is there for.

“The fact that there are bad people out there is not a reason for Grenada, the United States, UK, most of the countries of the world, progressive countries of the world to not have some form of Citizen By Investment.

Minister Steele boasted that the co-operation that Grenada has with other countries is primarily responsible for bringing the two Chinese fugitives to justice.

“It speaks to having a proper mechanism in place for communication that when certain individuals get into a programme, the countries involved quickly co-operate and bring the individuals to justice. I think if this individual had not been in a Grenada situation, he may not have been brought to justice as quickly because the Grenada government is co-operating fully with all of the others …”, he said.

“…We co-operate fully and have the full co-operation of other countries and when someone is found to have committed a crime, then appropriate actions are taken immediately and swiftly,” he added.

The senior government minister disclosed that government has the mechanisms in place and the political will to act when it is deemed necessary.

A previous NNP administration was forced to abandon its passport-selling scheme after Canada imposed visa restrictions on Grenadians travelling to the country.

The scheme was brought back soon after Dr. Mitchell led the party to victory in the 2013 general elections.

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