Changes for more transparent CBI Programme

The ruling New National Party (NNP) government has taken steps to block potential loopholes in the island’s passport-selling scheme known as the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI).

According to Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Anthony Boatswain, the move is intended to ensure that investors get value for their money in any project through clarity and transparency.

Minister Boatswain told reporters at the Ministerial Complex at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing that the Cabinet of Ministers has decided to make some specific changes to section 11 of the regulations which deals with the investment aspects of the programme.

“…You know there are two components – you can enter the programme (to get a Grenada passport) under section 10 where you can make a contribution to the Transformation fund and section 11 whereby the investor could invest money in an approved project in return for citizenship,” he said.

The senior government minister noted that although Grenada’s programme has been rated as “the better regulated and managed programme” in the region, there is always room for improvement.

“We do believe that from time to time, there will be reasons to upgrade or to improve on the regulatory mechanisms in place and therefore by approving the regulations with some amendments that were made subsequently, we believe that the regulatory mechanisms for that CBI Programme, especially under section 11 will be better enhanced.

“The two key aspects of the changes that we have identified to be included in the new regulation is “that before any escrow account could be established with investor funds for investment into any approved project, there must be an agreement between the investor and the developer and that must precede the establishment of the escrow account.

“…In the past, you could establish the account and then maybe there is an agreement subsequent to that. We believe that that was not the proper approach…you must have the agreement identifying all of the terms and conditions of investment, what will happen if there is a default before you can establish the account, so there is clarity on both sides.

A few months ago, Tokyo-based multi-millionaire, Roger Ver took court action to recover US$1 million that was sent into the bank account of a local law firm to acquire a Grenada passport that was turned down.

When Ver received information that the passport would not be given to him, he asked back and was not immediately given the money from CBI agent, the controversial Robert Martin Oveson of the Nevis-based NTL Trust, an authorised agent for the selling of Grenadian passports.

Ver also filed a complaint with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) on alleged fraud against Oveson in connection with the money.

THE NEW TODAY understands that Ver eventually got back the money that was earmarked for the Levera project in St. Patrick that Robert Martin Oveson was originally involved in.

The project is now said to be totally run by Oveson’s brother, Randy Oveson.

According to Minister Boatswain, the second changer to the CBI legislation provides for the Escrow account “to be audited by an auditing firm approved by the investment committee, not the investor, not the developer”.

He said government believes that this will make “for greater transparency in the operation of the project and if there are issues that may warrant a termination then that will have to be brought forward and the project may lose its status as an approved project under the new dispensation”.

The Mitchell-led government is looking to the CBI to rake in millions of dollars as a major source of revenue for Grenada which has just emerged from a 3-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to arrest a severe fiscal problem.

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