Opinion: A Year of Deception and Discrimination for Retroactively Rejected St. Kitts CBI Applicants

By Maxim Zharkov

Editor’s Note

Upon receiving the below contribution article from Maxim Zharkov, IMI contacted Michael Martin of the Saint Kitts & Nevis CIU and shared with him the text to obtain a response to Zharkov’s claims. Martin provided the following statement:

“We continue to work on getting out the refunds. While we understand applicants’ frustrations, we want to ensure that the funds are returned to the rightful recipients. We appreciate their patience and assure them that we are steadfastly working on the issue towards a satisfactory resolution.”

Over a year ago, the government of St. Kitts & Nevis retroactively canceled previously approved citizenship applications from citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Many applicants had already transferred contributions ($150,000 and up) to the St. Kitts & Neis fund option and received printed certificates of registration (COR).

According to the St. Kitts & Nevis Citizenship Act, “having been granted CORs, all new citizens are already registered as citizens of St. Kitts & Nevis.”

Thus, as new citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis, the applicants in question have been discriminated against. Moreover, the affected families who initially relied on the platinum brand of the CBI industry were only offered a refund of the contribution amount and no compensation for agent fees, incidental expenses, or even the fees for the due diligence procedure, which these applicants had successfully completed.

As a result of numerous unsuccessful attempts to receive a refund for at least the contribution amount, a group of applicants launched an online petition project to unite the victims of illegal and unfair treatment by the government of St. Kitts & Nevis. 

As one of the participants of both the program and the online petition, I am skeptical of the government’s assurances of its readiness to make refunds. Official notifications with instructions for returning contributions were sent to affected families through local agents, accompanied by a requirement to provide another set of notarized documents.

This bureaucratic hassle seems aimed at delaying the refund process. The new refund instructions (sent in November 2023) are essentially no different from the initial letters distributed in Novemberlast year, when the processing of applications for citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus was halted. Some petitioners have already complied with identical instructions in recent months but have not received a refund. 

Below is an official document issued by the St.Kitts & Nevis government dated November 29, 2022, when Prime Minister Terrance Drew had already been in office for months. It mentions citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus and offers only a refund of the contribution amount. The document also confirms that the contribution was credited to the St. Kitts & Nevis State fund on August 23, 2022, after the new government had taken office. 

We analyzed the recent statements of the country’s Prime Minister, Dr. Terrance Drew, made in November 2023 about the reasons for the current situation. He refers to a decision made by the former government in March 2022, which the current government has to deal with. However, this is a false claim from the Prime Minister.

Specifically, Dr. Terrance Drew states the following: “[… ] to give you background, that was since March 2022 when that decision was made, and therefore as we do our audit and find those, we deal with them accordingly as you can appreciate, so that was not a decision that we made and we did not make that decision and we are dealing with it administratively because that aspect of it was not dealt with […] ” 

(For more details, see the video of the conference from 6:00 to 6:30).

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In fact, it was November 2022 when the new government of St. Kitts & Nevis, under the decision of Dr. Terrance Drew, sent official letters and retroactively canceled applications from citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus without providing any compensation for due diligence fees, agent fees, and other expenses.

No other Caribbean country has demonstrated such unprofessionalism and lack of compassion during one of the most challenging periods for the affected countries. For instance, Grenada accepted applications from Russians until April 1, 2023 and fulfilled all its obligations properly.

The decision made by the previous government in March 2022 was aimed to stop accepting only new applications from Russia and Belarus. Families from the aforementioned countries, which had sent applications prior to March 2022, continued receiving approval letters and instructions to send money to the St.Kitts Sustainable Growth Fund.

We have a number of such approval letters sent to affected applicants. However, the current head of the CBI Unit, Michael Martin, states that all processing of Russian and Belarusian citizens and residents ceased in March 2022.

Such claims made by Michael Martin in his exclusive interview with the leading investment migration media platform, IMI Daily, are absolutely inexcusable. 

According to our information, no one has received a refund in the past year, which is crucial for affected families, considering the political instability in the region and ongoing military conflicts.

The scale of manipulations, deception, and disregard for requests by the Citizenship by Investment Unit regarding the affected applicants’ attempts to recover at least the contribution amount is disheartening. Unfortunately, the exact number of affected families remains unknown as the government refuses to disclose program statistics.

However, based on our estimates, this number could range from several dozen to several hundred applicants, most of whom are young IT entrepreneurs and their family members. The St.Kitts & Nevis CIP became popular in the countries of the former Soviet Union when a Russian IT-billionaire and a founder of Telegram, Pavel Durov, obtained St.Kitts & Nevis citizenship back in 2015.

To potential applicants considering participation in the Citizenship by Investment Program of St. Kitts & Nevis: It is important to remember that St. Kitts & Nevis citizenships are not guaranteed, even after paying the contribution and receiving the printed certificate of registration.

The onset of political instability or military actions becomes an excuse for the new government to treat applicants from all conflicting parties unlawfully and unfairly. The once highly regarded platinum standard of the CBI industry is now turning into a platinum myth right in front of our eyes. 

Considering all the humiliations that the applicants have endured over the past year, we express a vote of no confidence in the actions of the Citizenship by Investment Unit and the current government of St. Kitts & Nevis.

We will closely monitor the actions of the CIU pertaining to the refund of contributions, as well as pay close attention to the statements made by the country’s officials. At this point, the only thing we can truly believe is the actual return of funds to the families who once placed their trust in the promises of the CBI industry and chose Saint Kitts & Nevis as their second home.

We will inform IMI Daily if any of the participants in the online petition receive their money back.

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