The Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis has blamed his predecessor for the uproar over a buy-a-passport program that is drawing international scrutiny.
The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis is a two-island country in the West Indies, and a tax haven. Since 1984, its buy-a-passport program grants citizenship to anyone making a $400,000 real estate purchase or a $250,000 donation to the country’s Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation. The citizenship was good enough to grant visa-free travel to 133 countries.
St. Kitts was once envisioned as one of several possible Bitcoin islands or Bitcoin havens, where cryptocurrency and its users can flourish without the alleged oppression of governments.
Roger Ver, “Bitcoin Jesus”, had reportedly run a “Passports for Bitcoin” program that would allow anyone to buy a St. Kitts passport with bitcoin. The program ceased after a brief period and the St. Kitts government adamantly disavowed any connection to the program or Bitcoin.
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The buy-a-passport program came under fire when the United States, from where many St. Kitts immigrants originate in order to avoid tax obligations, alleged that “illicit actors” were freely roaming the globe with a St. Kitts passport. Canada removed the visa-free benefit for St. Kitts passport holders.
St. Kitts Prime Minister Tim Harris told his parliament that the international scrutiny is “all because one man was caught up with his greed and hubris and self-interest,” referring to his predecessor Denzil Douglas, whom he replaced after a February election.
“And all he wanted was money, money for his own sake, and he was prepared to remove that which distinguishes us from other people and countries and other jurisdictions … to allow the illicit actors to be able to move about with disguise,” he was quoted as saying, according to National Post.
Harris went on to state that his government is working hard to strengthen the program so that “no illicit actor can participate.”