In a remarkable turn of events, Vanuatu’s new Deputy Prime Minister has served Jimmy Ng King Cheung – the country’s Trade Commissioner to Hong Kong and sole authorized agent for the parallel citizenship by investment program, the Vanuatu Contribution Program (VCP) -with a three-month termination notice.
The notice opens by referring some hitherto unpublished details of the agreements between Mr. Ng and the erstwhile government.
Vanuatu government has entered into a contract of services agreements with you as trade Commissioner to Hong Kong on the 17th of October 2011 to provide Permanent Residency on behalf of the Vanuatu government in the Asian countries.
The contract agreement is for a period of 10 years which will elapse on the 16th of October 2021. According to section 17 (a) of the contract of service, the commission is to produce a report on the services of PRG and to make available to the government on a monthly basis. The government of Vanuatu has not been receiving monthly reports as per the agreement of services.
For the last eight and a half years, in addition to providing new permanent residents for Vanuatu, Mr. Ng’s Hong Kong company – PRG Immimart Limited – has been the “Worldwide Exclusive Sole Master Marketing Agent” of the VCP as appointed by the “Worldwide Sole Exclusive Agent” (a local Vanuatu company named Vanuatu Glory Limited). The VCP has existed in parallel with the Vanuatu Development Support Program (VDSP), a conventional citizenship program with some 31 accredited local agents.
To learn more about that peculiar state of affairs, see Why Does Vanuatu Have Several CIPs? and Vanuatu Government Addresses the “Multiple Citizenship Program” Paradox. To learn more about how the government of Vanuatu came to grant a Greater-China monopoly for its citizenship by investment program to Mr. Ng, see Conspiracies and Foul Play – In Candid Letter, HK Lawyer Answers Long-Standing Questions on Vanuatu Citizenship.
Central to Mr. Ng’s privileged position as the sole agent for promoting both residency and citizenship of Vanuatu in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau was his position as Trade Commissioner to Hong Kong.
The implication of today’s notice, although it makes no explicit mention of the VCP, is that Mr. Ng’s cushy relationship with the former government of Vanuatu will not be allowed to continue under the new administration. Indeed, the Vanuatu Citizenship Commission’s new Chairman was expressly tasked with reviewing and reforming the citizenship by investment programs when he was appointed on April 30th.
“Clear Conflict of Interest”
The notice goes on to draw into question the rationale behind the various extensions to the contract Mr. Ng had obtained from the previous administration.
The expiry date of the original contract is the 16th of October 2021 which will be reviewed upon the agreement of the government and the commission.
But instead, without valid substantial reasons the third and the fourth supplementary agreement amendments provide for the extension of the contract.
a) The third supplementary agreement amendment section (4) provide for automatic renewal of the contract after 10 years, which was signed in 2014.
b) The Fourth supplementary agreement amendment section (2) provide for the renewal of the contract to 2031, which was signed in 2019.
It clearly shows conflict of interest on your side as you clearly knew that there would be a change of government when the contract elapsed. You have used your influence as the sole authorized agent [ed: an indirect reference to the VCP] to engage in the automatic renewal of the contract on the supplementary agreements.
It has also come to my attention that the Trade Commission is funding the immigration officer who is responsible for the PR program in Hong Kong under the agreement through the office rentals and other office utilities including the traveling costs. This is deemed to be a clear conflict of interest as per section 4 of the contract of services.
Therefore, consequent to section 5 of the contract, you are given 3 months’ notice to provide your response to the above. Once I receive your written response to the above I will decide to continue with the contract or terminate the contract immediately.
Reacting to the news, James Harris of the Vanuatu Investment Migration Bureau, a man who predicted this outcome weeks ago, indicates that Mr. Ng’s termination as Trade Commissioner will bring a final resolution to the dual-CIP state of affairs.
“The rationale of Vanuatu operating two parallel CIP programs with one reserved for a single exclusive distributor has always been an enigma and a cause of disquiet across the industry,” says Harris. “There has been a lingering suspicion that a separate channel meant separate, preferential processing and less probity. It has caused reputational challenges.”
For the first three years of its co-existence with the VDSP, the VCP – beyond having exclusive purview of the Chinese market (the chief source of new Vanuatu citizens) – also had preferential pricing.
“In 2019, there were attempts to level the playing field by an apparent harmonization of the two programs – although the two programs have since continued to operate side by side,” Harris explains.
“The emergence of this letter indicates a serious intent by the new government to finally eliminate any perception of an unfair advantage to any single distribution channel. From here, with just the DSP remaining, the Government will hopefully continue in a process of reforming this with the goal to create a durable, world-class program that will serve the country’s vital economic interests.”
The change in government and the arrival of a new chairman at the Citizenship Commission appear to be producing sweeping change for Vanuatu’s CIP activities. Just yesterday, the Commission reported it had raised a record VT7 billion since the start of the year, VT3 billion of which in the last three weeks alone. The new chairman, Ronald Warsal, also hinted the country might soon introduce real estate investment options (currently, only donations qualify) as part of a “Citizenship by Tourism Investment Program”.
Want to know more about the Vanuatu CIP? To see recent statistics, official links, FAQs, and more, please visit its Program Page. To see which firms can assist with applications to the program, please visit the Residence & Citizenship by Investment Company Directory.
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 14 years in the United States, China, and Spain.