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SVG not included on OECD ‘golden passport’ blacklist

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St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is the only independent country in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) which has not been included on a blacklist of countries whose “golden passport” schemes are said to “threaten international efforts to combat tax evasion.”

On Tuesday, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a list of 21 countries which they say operate high-risk schemes that sell either residency or citizenship.

The Paris-based body, said to be the west’s leading economic thinktank, raised the alarm about the fast-expanding $3 billion citizenship by investment industry, which has turned nationality into a marketable commodity, the Guardian said on Tuesday.

Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Kitts and Nevis are the five independent OECS nations on the list, while the other Caribbean nations and territories named are The Bahamas, Barbados, Turks and Caicos and Montserrat.

The other blacklisted countries are Malta, Bahrain, Colombia, Cyprus, Malaysia, Mauritius, , Panama, Qatar, Seychelles, United Arab Emirates and Vanuatu.

CIP programmes allow foreign nationals to become citizens of countries in which they have never lived in exchange for donations to a sovereign trust fund, or investments in property or government bonds.

After analysing residence and citizenship schemes operated by 100 countries, the OECD says it is naming those jurisdictions that attract investors by offering low personal tax rates on income from foreign financial assets, while also not requiring an individual to spend a significant amount of time in the country, the Guardian said.

Second passports can be misused by those wishing to “hide assets held abroad”, according to the thinktank. Its flagship initiative is a framework for countries to cooperate in the fight against tax evasion by sharing information. Known as the Common Reporting Standard, the framework allows for details
of bank accounts an individual might hold abroad to be sent to their home tax office.

Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of SVG has remained steadfastly opposed to citizenship by investment programmes (CIP), even in tough economic times. Describing them as a “race to the bottom”, he has said such programmes bring with them national security challenges. Successive leaders of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) have stated their support for CIP programmes and their intention to introduce them here should they win government.

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