No Passport and No Money Back: Retroactively Rejected Saint Kitts CBI Applicants Start Petition

A “large group” of Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian applicants who applied for Saint Kitts and Nevis citizenship through the country’s Citizenship by Investment Program have started an online petition to get their money back after their applications were retroactively denied by the Saint Kitts & Nevis CIU. The applicants say the CIU has yet to refund their donation money.

Until March last year, the Saint Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) still accepted citizenship applications from investors from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. In November 2022, however, many of these applicants received official letters from the CIU informing them that their applications would no longer be processed.

This measure proved retroactive, affecting even investors who had already received approval for their applications. The CIU notified them that they had halted their application processes and that citizenship would not be granted.

Anatoliy Letaev, the founder of Migronis, who represents many of the affected clients, points out that the retroactive nature of the measure “contradicts the letter of the law.” 

Saint Kitts & Nevis CIU “unlawfully” withholding donation funds from retroactively rejected applicants

More disconcertingly, several of the applicants in question had already paid all requisite fees and even the required donations, funds they say the CIU has yet to reimburse more than 18 months later. Initially, CIU informed applicants that they would receive refunds for their donations, which at the time amounted to a minimum of US$150,000. Due diligence fees and other costs relating to applications, which often amount to tens of thousands of dollars, were not reimbursable.

As of today, Letaev confirms, not a single one of his firm’s affected clients has received the promised refunds. Other firms with Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian clients with whom IMI has been in touch but who declined to speak on record confirm similar experiences.

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One of the clients in question, Alexander, applied for citizenship in December 2021 and had his application approved in June 2022. To apply, he spent a total of US$190,000, which included his donation. Since June 2023, Alexander says he has been in repeated contact with the CIU in an attempt to secure reimbursement but has so far been unsuccessful.

Alexander has since launched an online petition in hopes of improving his chances of retrieving the money and assisting others in a similar situation. The petition’s goal is to draw attention to the issue and call for the Citizenship by Investment Unit to refund the money donated by investors who were refused a passport after the program was closed for Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian citizens.

Letaev stresses the importance of CBI countries following “a civilized and legal path in cases where they are restricting these programs to investors from specific countries.”

While Saint Kitts and Nevis is not the only country that has prohibited citizens of these countries from applying, it is the only one that known to have taken retroactive action. For example, Grenada, which closed the possibility for investors from Russia and Belarus to apply from April 1, 2023, informed potential applicants about these changes in advance and gave them time to complete their applications. All applications received as of April 1st are being processed under the rules as they were at the time of submission.

The CIU’s apparent unwillingness to cooperate is likely to stem from legislative hurdles: The laws and regulations that govern the program offer no provisions regarding how to return funds in this special scenario. The authors of the existing legislation appear to simply not have foreseen this type of eventuality.

Questions will remain as to whether classifying whole countries as a security risk is constitutional. And even if it is, acting on such classifications in a retroactive manner may not be. As matters stand, there is no legal basis by which the CIU could return the money, which is already part of the government budget. In fact, Saint Kitts & Nevis’ government might have to table and pass new legislation in Parliament to be able to lawfully return the funds.

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