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EU Scrutinizes Dominica’s Citizenship-by-Investment Amid Caribbean Regulatory Review

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The European Commission is spearheading a thorough review of “golden passport” regulations that permit visa-free entry to the European Union (EU), following the disclosure that five Caribbean nations, Dominica included, have collectively distributed 88,000 such passports. Of these, Dominica’s share stands at 34,500 sales.

Recent scrutiny surrounds golden passports, with a report unveiled on Wednesday recommending several amendments to the European Parliament. A notable suggestion is simplifying the process for the EU to revoke visa-free privileges from nations offering citizenship to foreign applicants.

At present, the EU employs a “suspension mechanism” allowing member states to momentarily suspend visa-free privileges for particular countries, especially in cases of irregular migration surges or perceived security threats. However, given the potential hazards tied to Citizenship-by-Investment (CBI) programs — such as public policy threats, organized crime involvement, money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption — the Commission is keen on streamlining the visa suspension procedure.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Ylva Johansson, voiced concerns on Thursday regarding nations selling passports at fairly low prices to individuals potentially posing security threats to the EU.

This regulatory examination closely follows the unveiling of “Dominica: Passports of the Caribbean,” a joint investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the Government Accountability Project, and several media outlets. The probe revealed a longstanding practice of Dominica selling its citizenship with scant oversight. Alarmingly, some recipients of this citizenship had prior criminal investigations or convictions. A few even became fugitives in their home countries post-acquiring Dominican documents.

Although not all golden passport holders partake in criminal endeavors — many are former and current government officials without any allegations — their designation as “politically exposed persons” necessitates a deeper probe.

The European Commission report underlined a lack of stringent applicant tracking in Caribbean CBI programs. Furthermore, the five Caribbean nations — Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and Dominica — provide options for identity alteration post citizenship acquisition through investment. With low rejection rates and rapid processing times, questions loom over the effectiveness of security vetting.

The precise period over which Dominica issued the 34,500 passports, as noted in the Commission’s report, is unclear. This figure markedly overshoots the 7,700 names documented in the island’s public gazettes from 2007 to 2022, presumed to be the official record of new passport recipients.

Subsequent investigations by the OCCRP and the Guardian unearthed inconsistencies in Dominica’s reported passport issuance numbers and declared revenue from naturalization fees between mid-2016 to mid-2022. The EU’s findings lend weight to suspicions of Dominica underreporting numerous passport issuances.

Recently, the U.K. imposed visa requirements on Dominica travelers, highlighting apparent misuse of the CBI scheme.

Dominica’s government and its President, Roosevelt Skerrit, remained unresponsive to multiple inquiries from OCCRP and its allies before the investigation’s publication. Confronted with detailed queries, Skerrit held press briefings, unfoundedly accusing international journalists of accepting payments from his political rivals, and likening these journalists to “terrorists.”

Echoing the call for legislative adjustments concerning visa-free access, the European Commission underscored that EU entry should not be monetized by countries offering citizenship for investments. The report also posited that the EU should have the capability to withdraw visa exemptions from any third country running a CBI scheme devoid of a genuine connection to that country.

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USVI Community Pulse

V.I. Parole Board to Review Cases of Manslaughter, Robbery, and Fraud

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The V.I. Parole Board has released its schedule for parole hearings in June, inviting testimony from victims, family members, and other interested parties.

To submit testimony, written comments or requests to appear before the Board must be sent by May 30, 2024. Correspondence should be addressed to:

Chairman of the Parole Board
John A. Bell Adult Correctional Facility
Rural Route 1, Box 9909
Kingshill, VI 00850-9715
Phone: (340) 773-6309 ext. 6817
Email: [email protected]

Hearing Schedule

June 3:
Edwin Rivera, convicted of second-degree robbery and currently incarcerated at the Citrus County Detention Facility in Florida, will have his parole application reviewed.

June 5:
Five inmates from the Tallahatchie County Facility in Missouri will be heard:

  • Jahzeel Fenton – First-degree assault (domestic violence)
  • Yamini Potter – Grand larceny, identity theft, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice
  • Jim Wallace – Voluntary manslaughter
  • Elieser Edwards – First-degree robbery
  • Dekumar Rogers – Unauthorized possession of a firearm

June 7:
The board will review the case of Mekel Blash, serving a sentence for second-degree murder, from the Wallens Ridge State Prison, Keen Mountain Correctional Facility, and Red Onion State Prison in Virginia.

June 10:
Applications from inmates at the John A. Bell Correctional Facility will be considered:

  • Francisco Tirado – First-degree unlawful sexual contact
  • Ethelbert Benjamin – First-degree unlawful sexual contact
  • William Wilson – Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute

June 11:
The board will hear applications from inmates of the Alexander A. Farrelly Criminal Justice Complex:

  • Curtis Petersen – Stalking (domestic violence)
  • Edward Paul – Unauthorized possession of a firearm
  • Ray Sanderson – First-degree attempted robbery
  • Shamall Fleming – Second-degree assault (domestic violence)

Public Advisory

The Parole Board reminds the public that parole eligibility is based on the inmate’s sentence and V.I. parole statutes. Inclusion on the eligibility list does not guarantee parole or a scheduled hearing. Parole can only be granted on the recommendation of the Director of the Bureau of Corrections. Additionally, release dates depend on various conditions, including approval by the State Council of Interstate Compact for the Supervision of Adult Offenders.

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USVI Prosecutors and Public Defenders Now Eligible for Law School Loan Repayment Grants

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Prosecutors and federal public defenders in the U.S. Virgin Islands now have a chance to ease their law school loan burdens through a new grant program.

The Virgin Islands Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC) has announced the acceptance of applications for the John R. Justice Grant Program. This initiative, established during the Obama administration, provides loan repayment assistance to qualifying prosecutors and public defenders who commit to staying in their positions for at least three years.

This year, the LEPC has secured $51,840 in grant funds for the program. They plan to distribute approximately 10 grants of around $5,000 each, although the final amount could vary based on the number of applicants. “Awards may increase depending on the number of respondents,” the LEPC stated.

The grants are available to full-time federal public defenders and prosecutors. Full-time is defined as working at least 75% of a standard 40-hour work week. The selection process will prioritize applicants who demonstrate the greatest financial need in repaying their student loans.

The application process involves several steps: income verification, school loan verification, and the completion of a John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program Service Agreement. Applicants must also submit additional documents, including education loan records and proof of employment. The LEPC has indicated it will work with the Department of Labor to account for any increases in the cost of living.

Applications must be submitted electronically to the LEPC by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 30, 2024, at [email protected]. Incomplete applications or those lacking required signatures and documents will not be considered.

For further information or to request an application, interested parties can contact Ms. Carmen Potter, Executive Assistant to the Director, at (340) 774-6400 or via email at [email protected].

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Christiansted Bypass Renamed to Honor DPW Veteran Aloy “Wenty” Nielsen

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In a ceremony held during National Public Works Week, the Christiansted Bypass was officially renamed in honor of Aloy “Wenty” Nielsen, a dedicated public servant whose contributions have significantly shaped the infrastructure across the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Nielsen, who has worked with the Department of Public Works (DPW) for over 30 years, was recognized for his extensive impact on public infrastructure projects on all three islands. DPW Commissioner Derek Gabriel highlighted Nielsen’s instrumental role in several key projects, including the development at Point Udall on St. Croix, the roundabout on St. John, and the Long Bay Revitalization on St. Thomas.

“It’s really the volume of work over his lifetime that we’re honoring,” said Jomo McClean, DPW’s Highway Program Manager and master of ceremonies. He emphasized Nielsen’s vision, patience, and leadership, which have been crucial in securing federal funds for large-scale projects like the Christiansted Bypass.

Senate President Novelle Francis praised Nielsen as a “quiet superhero” whose relentless efforts over the decades ensured the completion of the bypass despite numerous delays and setbacks. Lieutenant Governor Tregenza Roach also commended the shift towards honoring living individuals who have significantly contributed to the territory’s development.

Addressing the crowd, Nielsen expressed his humility and joy at the recognition. He reminisced about the bypass project, which originated from a 1972 study, describing it as a testament to persistence and cooperation. Initially met with public skepticism, the project eventually won widespread approval for its positive impact on traffic and quality of life in Christiansted.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. admitted his early doubts about the project’s feasibility but acknowledged its successful completion as a result of determination and collaborative effort. Nielsen echoed this sentiment, noting the bypass’s role in easing traffic and providing a recreational space for residents.

While celebrating the honor, Nielsen credited the collective dedication of all those involved in making the project a reality. The Aloy “Wenty” Nielsen Bypass, he concluded, symbolizes not only physical connectivity but also the spirit of progress and cooperation within the community.

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