The Grenada government says it has launched an investigation into a company that benefitted from the island’s Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI) and was expected to construct and establish a shrimp farm in the rural parish of St Mark since 2017.
“We are now investigating, and we are seeking the support from our friends regionally and internationally to deal with the proprietors of that particular project because we know that through the programme they have collected significant sums of money,” Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell told reporters.
“We have been disappointed in this one,” said Mitchell, noting that the action of the company has caused the government to make some mandatory changes to the way funds are accessed under the programme.
“They have not done the investment and because of that we have made some changes to the conditions of people receiving money from the CBI programme, we are making sure it goes into escrow accounts and they have to account for it on a regular basis with the government having oversight. Some of them don’t like it but we have to protect the name of the country,” he said.
In February 2017, a CBI registered company called Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture (GSA) launched the Zero-Water Exchange Sustainable Organic Shrimp Farm. The project was expected to have specialized in the production of shrimp in a socially and environmentally-friendly manner, that is, free of antibiotics, chemical additives and enzymes.
GSA said at the time that the project will be a model for the Caribbean and the rest of the world, and due to the technology used as well as the quality of water supply, it would produce a sweeter shrimp that will be in high demand in countries such as the United States and Canada.
But while Prime Minister Mitchell has disclosed the investigation into the company, a notice on the Grenada CBI website since October 2018 informed visitors to the site that it suspended applications for the Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture project.
“Notice is hereby given that the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Committee has suspended the acceptance of applications in respect of the approved project, Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture, until further notice. We thank you for your continued support of the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Program,” said the notice which was signed by Thomas F. L. Anthony, Chief Executive Officer, Grenada Citizenship by Investment Unit.
Grenada earned more than EC$80 million (one EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) through the CBI programme in 2018 and recently made legislative changes to the CBI law. Justifying the purpose of the changes, Prime Minister said that the aim is to attract more persons.
“We made the changes to make it more attractive… we are in a competitive world and other countries have made changes making sure more people qualify for the citizenship under particular family initiative, so we have made changes to ensure we attract more, but I tell you something, one particular thing we will never do, we will not compromise on security,” he said.
Grenada and several other Caribbean countries provide citizenship for foreign investors who make a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of the island.
The amendments expand the definition of dependents as it relates to CBI applications, to include parents and grandparents who are below the age of 55, unmarried siblings of the main applicant and spouse as well as children born within twelve months of the granting of citizenship. The amendments also remove the requirements for dependent children between the ages of 18 and 30 to be enrolled at an institution of higher learning and for parents or grandparents over 55 years to be fully supported.
Another amendment provides for the removal of permanent residence as a pre-requisite for citizenship. The amended Grenada Citizenship by Investment Act also provides for secondary purchasers of CBI units in approved projects to acquire citizenship.
“If we have to lose a lot of business because we are keeping our security checks intact, Grenada is being lauded as one of the best in terms of the security checks that we do, all governments have indicated that and so far we have not had any major problem whatsoever and we intend to keep it like that,” Mitchell said.