Disclosing CBI Applicants’ Identities Will “Ruin” The Business, Says Agent After Grenada Names Burmese Investor

A high-profile Myanmar businessman and military supplier, Naing Htut Aung, acquired citizenship in Grenada in June 2020 through its Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program, an investigative report by Frontier Myanmar has revealed. In the following year, the EU, US, and Canada sanctioned Aung’s company, International Gateways Group (IGG), for what those countries claim was the company’s role in Myanmar’s military coup.

Aung appears not to have been under sanctions when Grenada’s CIU (now IMA) evaluated his citizenship application in mid-2019, though his company gave some US$4.5 million in donations to the Myanmar military in 2017, a year during which it purportedly carried out crimes against humanity.

Speaking to Frontier Myanmar, IMA Grenada confirmed that Aung had obtained Grenadian citizenship in 2020 but pointed out that none of the information received from independent due diligence providers at the time had given cause for concern about the applicant.

Grenada, like most CBI countries, reserves the right to revoke citizenships if the applicants are later found to have been convicted of a serious crime, if they are the subject of criminal investigations, are national security risks, have made material misrepresentations, or if they are involved in activities that could bring the country into disrepute.

See: Malta Moves to Strip Citizenship From Sanctioned Israeli Spyware CEO

Questioned as to whether Grenada would revoke Aung’s citizenship now that he is under sanctions, IMA told the newspaper it had not taken any such actions at this time and further explained that sanctions alone were not necessarily sufficient grounds for such action:

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“It depends on the legitimacy and credibility of the sanctions list,” the agency commented, and added that it carries out “periodic monitoring on a random sample basis of approved applicants after they become citizens” and if “credible new information come[s] to light during that due diligence process which warrants initiation of the process of cancellation of passport and other measures, those would be pursued.”

While Grenada’s IMA appears to have done its job in terms of vetting the applicant, Grenada’s decision to confirm the identity of one of its CBI citizens is highly irregular. CBI countries generally decline to publicly disclose the identities of their approved applicants, as confidentiality is often a key selling point. This breach of privacy may give pause to prospective CBI applicants, particularly those hailing from countries like Myanmar that do not officially permit dual citizenship.

Responding to a question from IMI as to whether their decision to confirm that Huang had obtained citizenship by investment was an exception or something it might decide to do also for other cases, IMA Grenada’s chief executive Thomas Anthony responded that it was “an exception.”

“CBI units are not supposed to reveal who obtained citizenship,” charges Philippe May, CEO of EC Holdings, a global residence and citizenship advisory firm. “The identity of applicants must be treated confidentially.”

He warns that “if units confirm publicly who is a citizen, they will ruin the entire proposition, not only in their own jurisdiction but across the Carib5, in countries like Red China, where dual citizenship is not permitted.”

He calls on the other Caribbean CIUs to “strongly denounce such malfeasance and to vow to uphold confidentiality. Then, only the country that disrespects confidentiality will suffer the reputational and commercial consequences of the decision to disclose, and the other countries can absorb its business.”

May cautions that in the absence of such strong signals from the industry, “Chinese investors and applicants from other single-citizenship countries will turn away entirely once they become aware of the malpractice.”

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