When a passport becomes a badge of shame

The thought of an Iranian fugitive from justice moving seamlessly almost anywhere in the world on a Barbadian passport which he bought for tens of thousands of dollars, would likely send shivers through the spines of virtually every Barbadian.

Or that of a former Nigerian minister who had been indicted by her own house of representatives for siphoning tens of billions of dollars in fuel subsidies from the state, and under investigation by British police on bribery and money laundering charges, carrying a Barbados diplomatic passport, having been secretly appointed an ambassador.

Or that of an unknown number of nationals of lands far away – Iran, Iraq, Russia, virtually everywhere – who have never laid eyes on Barbados, and can hardly point it out on a map, purchasing Barbadian citizenship and we are none the wiser.

Just the thought of it would make every right thinking Barbadian shudder, for we are proud of our country, proud of our symbols, proud of the things we hold dear.

However, as an increasing number of Caribbean countries engage in the practice of selling citizenship, the dangers of criminals and fugitives from justice getting their hands on our passports increase.

Recently, Iranian fugitive Ali Reza Ziba Halat Monfared, 43, the holder of a Dominican diplomatic passport, was arrested in the Dominican Republic and deported to Iran via Cuba and Russia, to face charges of helping to embezzle billions of oil dollars.

Iranian authorities say he had worked alongside tycoon Babak Zanjani, who was arrested in 2013, and was sentenced to death last year for pocketing $2.8 billion while helping the country bypass sanctions.

The government of Dominica later said it had cancelled Monfared’s diplomatic passport in January 2016 after information surfaced “that he may be a person of interest to authorities”.

However, Monfared remains a Dominican citizen, having bought his citizenship via the Citizenship by Investment programme, which the American television network, CBS dubbed “mail order citizenship” because those who purchase Dominica passports never have to place foot, or eyes, on the island.

These buyers of citizenship are not interested in the Caribbean; they simply want access to the countries to which their own nation’s passports will not get them.

The governments involved say they have no choice but to peddle citizenship to keep their economies afloat. They seem to suggest that unless they engage in this highly controversial business their countries will atrophy and ultimately die.

We in Barbados know a thing or two about tough economic times; and as difficult as it is, we congratulate the Freundel Stuart administration for not falling to the temptation to sell our citizenship for pieces of silver. And, no matter how difficult the economy gets, we hope Government never takes this route.

Last year, when Stuart tried to introduce the fingerprinting of travelling Barbadians, one of the reasons he put forward was the importance of protecting the credibility of our passport. We must continue to protect this sacred document by refusing to put it in the hands of just about anyone who can easily afford a few hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Even now, there are serious implications for us. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas gives holders of passports from Caribbean Community [CARICOM] states certain privileges, including freedom of movement. It does not discriminate. Whether the holder is born here, obtained citizenship by marriage, or by spending many years here, working hard and contributing to the economy, or is an Iranian national hiding from the law who obtained it via mail order, they all have the same rights.

As Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines said, it is a troubling thought as “the grant of citizenship without any significant residence requirements or proper due diligence could facilitate criminality, money laundering or, at worst, terrorism and result in damage” to our international reputation.

For this reason, Barbados must join with Gonsalves to help curb this practice.

Currently, there is no shortage of buyers, so those involved in the citizenship selling business see a boom. But how far are they willing to go? Where will they stop? How many must they sell? Can an economy that is entirely dependent on the peddling of its citizenship be truly sustainable?  And, what if these economic citizens satisfy the very basic residency requirements, can they impose their government on us by voting in their numbers?

These are troubling questions that require serious discussion among the CARICOM leaders – although we will not hold our collective breath.

There are a few things that we must hold sacred and on which we cannot put a price. Our citizenship must be at the top of the list. It must not be treated like produce to be haggled over at Cheapside Market on a Saturday morning, or like a gadget to be ordered via Amazon.

Our passport ought not be allowed to become a badge of shame.

22 Responses to When a passport becomes a badge of shame

  1. Tony Webster February 11, 2017 at 2:22 am

    Bears a severe warning indeed, dear Ed. Hmmm….I’m new to this bit of turf, so merely ask one more question: are children of such “Bajans” elligible for citizenship also? If so, they need to ups the price of such passports, as dem so does t’ief so much moolah, it cannot be all spent in one lifetime…so sen’up the price to USD $10 Big Ones…or even $50 M. At flight (sorry) level Fifty, Kelly cud get dat second airport…wid change lef’ over!

    Reply
  2. Concerned Civilian February 11, 2017 at 6:54 am

    Thought provoking article

    Reply
  3. Edward February 11, 2017 at 7:21 am

    Please check your facts before making it news because in that way we will know that information you give is credible.

    The CBI program is not a mail by order program. The individuals must go through a acreening process by international and Caribbean Firms 2 Firms in the USA, 1 in Canada, 1 in the UK and JRCC in Barbados and the standards of these firms, a passport is issued to the investor. At that time Monafred was clean but when situations started to surface he was stripped of his rights as a Dominican citizen immediately.

    It’s a shame that other Caribbean countries continue spotlight and rejoice when social ills arrise in another but I tell you this. Dominicans have gone through thick and thin without the help of OECS and CARICOM. Our association with our International partners have done much more for us and thats where the blessing of our development comes from. If we were a Caribbean Community investing and supporting each other then we would not have to go to the extremes. We thank CARDI and CEO Williams for their support and the other few.

    Dominica has always been standing alone and we’re doing well, we’re a proud people of a rich heritage who will not deny others the freedom to live and enjoy GOD’S green earth in peace.

    VIV LA DOMINIQUE ALL FOR EACH AND EACH FOR ALL

    Reply
    • Dominican to the Bone February 11, 2017 at 11:38 am

      Edward,
      The facts are correct.
      Do you know what ‘mail order’ means? It means to purchase an item without being physically present. That how our passports are SOLD.
      Second… At the time Mr. Monafred applied for a diplomatic passport he was a known criminal wanted by the United States. No due diligence was done, and if done, was quite tardy.
      Third… Which Caribbean island was the first to come to our rescue after Tropical storm Erika ravaged Dominica… It was Barbados, they ‘put dey money wey dey mout is’… by giving financial assistance and offering their resources for free, namely the Barbados Coast Guard, who by the way, were instrumental in saving lives in Piete Savanne, a village cut off from the rest of the island. Other Caribbean Islands followed, so to say we have not received assistance from Caricom is not a fair statement.
      If our leaders were creative in creating employment in Dominica and stimulating the economy we would not have to be selling Passports.

      Reply
    • Josh Shaw February 12, 2017 at 10:28 am

      stop your foolishness when roosvelt skerrit hand delivered our diplomatic passport to that criminal in 2015 he was already a wanted man in iran. you all will try to justify skerRUT criminal activity all different ways.

      Reply
  4. Dr. Sam Christian February 11, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Around the Caribbean, we hold Barbados up as a model of decorum and devotion to democratic principles. Despite rough & tumble of Parliamentary politics, we always look to “Little England” for leadership in civility and good sense.

    As a surgeon, I was arrested for espousing the very same principles. A growing number of Dominicans endure vile repression for saying a resounding “no” to peddling of our patrimony. We covet your prayers. For us, your article strikes a solid blow for freedom!

    Reply
    • Dominican February 11, 2017 at 11:26 am

      Only time will tell Mr Christian, you are in our prayers……the clock is ticking ….. tick tock tick tock tick tock…..

      Reply
  5. Dana February 11, 2017 at 9:19 am

    It’s not the Dominican Republic. It’s Dominica. Totally different country

    Reply
  6. L King February 11, 2017 at 9:26 am

    This is serious: As offshore citizen of Barbadian parentage I too hold citizenship and thank you Barbados for the privilege and not the right that you have afforded me.

    I must say that this selling as exercised by some will blight Barbados creditability with other countries outside of the Caribbean as other counties such as the UK are themselves are having to fight international fraud which is a great concern to them and is costing million of £ to fight.

    So if some in the Caribbean are selling citizenship they will lose favour and respect from others that will lead to mistrust in engaging with Barbados and other islands.

    Reply
  7. THE SILENT DOMINICAN February 11, 2017 at 9:44 am

    And you would think that to go through all this trouble this CBI money would be more than visible to view when you have a look at our economy,BIG BUILDINGS AND GOOD ROAD, you know, “BETTER INFRASTRUCTURE”, but instead all we see is a massive decline in our economy’s GDP growth and massive INFLATION, our children are getting educated and then they have no jobs so on top of which we are experiencing brain drain not to mention that CBI is making us look foolish to the rest of the world. Something needs to be done because we do not want to be in this position anymore

    Reply
  8. Zandoli February 11, 2017 at 10:58 am

    With a under a million US dollars one can acquire citizenship to the US or the UK……..I guess that money is NOT a badge of shame for the Brits or the Yankees.

    Reply
  9. Donild Trimp February 11, 2017 at 11:10 am

    I am surprised at the lack of knowledge about this type of program coming from the posters here.

    Don’t Canada and the USA have the same citizenship by investment program?

    Why if it is the Caribbean it is called selling passports to criminals?

    Reply
  10. Jackson Vidal February 11, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Dr Sam where were you when the late Dame Mary Eugenia Charles introduced the programme????? Whenthe UWP reingineered the programme??

    Reply
  11. Sam Web February 11, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    @Edward it is sad that you think Dominica has stood alone without any support from other countries. After Erika Barbados was the first country to rush to our aid. The soldiers did a great job getting people out of Petite Savanne and they were very supportive of us. It is unfair to Barbados to say no one from Caricom helps us. Thank you Barbados. Thank you Barbados Today for this story.
    @Donild Trimp, the US program is vastly different. They do not sell passports/citizenship, no where in that programme do people remain where they are, pay a fee and get their citizenship. They have to invest at least US$500,000 in an area of high unemployment and hire locals in exchange for a green card. They don’t get citizenship. Like every migrant, if they stay in the US long enough and they qualify, they can apply for citizenship, which can be approved or rejected. This is different from what happens in Dominica and the other Caribbean countries.

    Reply
  12. Sasha.. February 11, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Sam..u lie..ur not opposed. You just want ur cut from the peddling.

    Reply
  13. JBaptiste February 11, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Also important is the fact that these ‘mail order’ citizens are naturalized immediately upon receipt of the payment. This makes them part of the electorate who can then decide the outcome of our elections.

    Reply
  14. Thomas Ambrose February 11, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Yes the US, Canada and some other first world countries indeed have CIP programs, the difference there is a very rigid due diligence and monitoring process far superior to the Caribbean region and they have a two tier system ie in the case of the US you first get a Green Card followed by a Passport 5 years later if you qualify.
    In the case of Dominica with all due respect I believe that the Country has seriously compromise the rest of the OECS territories, they all have free movement of Citizens, and the right of Citizenship in the other countries. They have cheapen the value of the Passports the day they priced it at US $100,000.00 thus allowing many undesirables an opportunity to purchase same.

    Reply
  15. ingrid o,marde February 11, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    Dear Edward,
    You need to check your history and you would learn that all the OECS countries came to the help of Dominica some years ago when tits economy was really in crisis. You need only to check with the ECCB and they will provide you with the information.

    Reply
  16. Sheila February 12, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    It appears that every country has its own skeletons in its closet when high levels of crime and immorality are downplayed, when local land is sold out to foreigners although they are not Barbadian, etc etc. just so that a perfect image can be displayed and our people can walk around feeling proud knowing that what happens at home stays at home or at least in the region. But to go state this on CBS? I would dare not do this to sweet Barbados.

    Reply
  17. Dominica Woman February 12, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    The Citizenship by Investment Programme would not be in such hot water, and such an embarassment to Dominica and the region, if it wasn’t for the DIPLOMATIC PASSPORT element!

    THIS is where the majority of the problems arise. Antigua has embarked on recalling ALL Diplomatic passports for a reason, they are attempting to clean up the practice, and other islands like Dominica would show they are committed to a properly-run program by doing the same. Namely:

    1. Listing the names of ALL diplomatic passport holders in parliament.

    2. Providing the list of names BEFORE they are issued so the public can raise concerns if there may be any.

    3. Instituting a STRICT criteria for non-nationals (those NOT born or resident for a certain period of time) to be issued diplomatic passports.

    4. A FIXED period of time until passport is renewed.

    5. Clearance by ALL OECS/CARICOM heads on those with diplomatic passports from all member states.

    If we are going to claim this program is for the best interest of the region, it is time we fix it before we are ALL reeling from international security-related sanctions!

    Reply
  18. lyn February 12, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    All,
    Lets sit back and take a deep breath. Yes all countries sell citizenship. I am from Dominica and i became a citizen of the US and i had to get finger prints taken and back ground checks done. I had to go to an interview and i had to wait a number of years after I had my green card to apply.
    All
    I do not know Skeritte and i do not know Linton. but I know Dominica. What I know is when I visited Dominica I did not like what I see

    Ministry building dilapidated, Police head Quarters dilapidated, Hospital dilapidated, Hospital did not even have a test strip to test my mother’s blood sugar. It took me 8 days and $4000.00 US to get back home. The Airport dilapidated, the roads to the airport atrocious. The roads to trafalgar scary , Roseau dilapidated,Yet every day i hear the PM saying money is not a problem I go to my village and is rum shop after rum shop. Fruits all on the ground in portsmouth. But everywhere i go they showing me property skeritte owns. And I started wondering what is going on. No one told me I started hearing young people talking about getting money and if they not in power people wont get money. And i say Dominica in trouble, socialism is taking place
    i am a student of economics and o started listening and reading and believe me Dominica is in big trouble.
    It shames me when people in my office can google Dominica and i as the only black and west Indian, it says Dominica sells passport for to sustain the economy.
    Dominica created a monster, and they need to fix it

    Reply
  19. L King February 14, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    @ Lyn where have you got this information about ALL countries SELL citizenship it’s news to me and I was born and reside in the UK.

    You’ll find YOUR wrong.

    Reply

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