St. Kitts and Nevis officials are defending the country’s “citizenship by investment” programme after three Iranians with SKN passports were reportedly investigated by United States officials for allegedly attempting to skirt economic sanctions.
Concerns were raised after three men — Pourya Nayebi, Houshang Hosseinpour and Houshang Farsoudeh — were placed on a list published by the US Treasury Department.
The men were named to the “Foreign Sanctions Evader List” because they reportedly used a number of foreign companies to allow Iranian banks to conduct tens of millions of dollars worth of transactions despite having been shut out of the American financial system, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Iran is under sanction from the US and many developed economies because of its alleged efforts to develop a nuclear weapons programme. Since the list’s publication, scrutiny has been drawn to the SKN government’s Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation, which offers passports to foreigners who invest in the country.
Dr. Denzil Douglas, SKN’s prime minister, said Monday that the investigation into the Iranians’ activities doesn’t hurt the programme “at all.”
“We haven’t been informed officially that this is happening and we don’t see anything unusual about this. Several persons, several citizens from several countries across the world, occasionally are the subjects of investigations. So there is nothing unusual here,” he said, according to the Caribbean Media Corporation.
The investment programme brings in about $100 million in investment to SKN each year, Mr. Douglas said, adding that the country has safeguards in place to prevent misuse of the passports.
“If that person or those persons were already on a watch list and they were able to obtain our citizenship, then that is something you question,” he said, adding, “Or if they are subject to an investigation without necessarily an offence being committed then we consider that to be quite normal and that in any way should not hurt our citizenship by investment programme.”