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From Afghan spymasters to Gaddafi’s colonel: The faces behind Dominica’s citizenship sales revealed

dominica passport

Posted: Wednesday, October 11, 2023. 5:15 am CST.

By Horace Palacio: In a major exposé by The Guardian and 14 other international news organizations, in collaboration with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the Caribbean nation of Dominica is found to have sold citizenship to thousands of individuals, including questionable figures like a former Afghan spymaster and a colonel from Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. The investigation, titled “Dominica: Passports of the Caribbean”, is the first detailed examination of Dominica’s “golden passports” scheme.

Dominica’s citizenship by investment (CBI) program, among the largest worldwide, has reportedly raised over $1bn (£822m) since 2009. This scheme, which allows global citizens visa-free access to 140 countries, including many in the EU, involves purchasing Dominican nationality for a minimum price of $100,000 (£82,000).

Previously, the identities of these citizenship buyers remained concealed. With assistance from the Government Accountability Project, the researchers unearthed archives across the Caribbean and leaked materials. Their findings indicate that over 7,700 individuals gained Dominican citizenship since 2007, with most acquiring it via purchase.

A diverse range of individuals, including those of Iranian, Chinese, and Russian descent, seek Dominican citizenship to escape oppressive regimes or to benefit from fewer bureaucratic barriers when crossing international borders.

However, this investigation has spotlighted concerns regarding the scheme’s transparency and governance. Some of these newly revealed passport holders have concerning backgrounds. One had been publicly accused of war crimes, while another had ties to Gaddafi’s regime. A notable mention includes a Turkish millionaire, previously convicted for fraud, who managed to secure citizenship.

Relying heavily on this citizenship sale, Dominica funds nearly half of its public services from the scheme’s proceeds. But this hasn’t been without consequences. For instance, the UK has recently revoked its visa-free travel policy for Dominica.

Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, defended the program during press conferences in September and October, citing rigorous due diligence processes. Drawing parallels with the US green card system, he argued that one cannot blame the program if an individual commits a crime post-acquisition. Skerrit further alleged that reporters on the investigation were paid by opposition politicians in Dominica to undermine the program.

Within Dominica’s national archives in Roseau, the weekly “Dominica Official Gazette” is the primary public information source about new Dominican citizens. However, the records, available only on paper, are not easily accessible. The Government Accountability Project last year compiled a list of every naturalized citizen from 2007 to 2022.

Among the controversial names revealed is Asadullah Khalid, Afghanistan’s former spy chief. Accused by UK and Canadian officials for human rights abuses, he secured Dominican citizenship in 2017, despite these allegations being public knowledge. Sasi Milud Sasi Grada, a former colonel under Gaddafi’s regime, was another notable mention. Additionally, the Turkish businessman Cavit Çağlar, convicted of fraud, obtained citizenship in 2011.

Dominica’s citizenship scheme stands out for its affordability, requiring only a $100,000 donation or a $200,000 investment in government-approved real estate. While golden passport schemes have garnered criticism globally, for Dominica, these funds are pivotal. With over $1bn in revenues since 2009, it’s a crucial income source, backing the country’s schools, healthcare, and other public services.

Golden passport initiatives continue to be a contentious issue on the global stage. The UK and Cyprus, for instance, have both terminated their schemes. Yet, for countries like Dominica, the economic gains can’t be overlooked, especially as they grapple with shifts in global trade rules.

 

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