Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan is addressing claims that an alleged $1.2 billion is conspicuously missing from the 2019 National Budget.
The United Workers Party led by Lennox Linton has positioned its election campaign on those claims based on the 2019/2020 budget as presented by Honourable Finance Minister and Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit.
Senior Counsel Astaphan wants to go on record saying that funds from the real estate component of the Citizenship by Investment Programme are reckoned differently from national income and expenditure.
He asserted that, “The money for the hotel projects, for example, are not Government funds. These are funds which the investor invests directly with the developers whether Range, Gregor Nassief, Sam Raphael, Alick Lawrence or others.
“The funds are held in escrow pending the application for citizenship. If the application is not granted, the investment cannot go through. What is lost irrevocably are the fees under the regulations. Once citizenship is granted and on presentation of the necessary documentation, certificate and report from the quantity surveyor, the Financial Secretary and the other joint secretary to the escrow account, that will allow for the release of the monies or be spent on the construction project whether Kempinsky or otherwise; those investment funds are governed by a contract between the developer and investor. The money for the hotel projects are not Government funds.
Senior Counsel Astaphan is adamant that save for the non-refundable application fees, monies from the Citizenship by Investment Programme do not belong to Government.
He went on to say, “If the application for citizenship is refused, [the monies] must be refunded to the investor and for the investor to be entitled to the funds paid pursuant to a contract with him or her, he must satisfy the Financial Secretary that the monies are required -not to be put in their pocket- but for expenditure on the project, So these hotels are being funded by private investors who at the same time seek citizenship.”
Astaphan says that information has been made clear and public and is well-known by the opposition party and is being perpetuated as a fraudulent scam for election mileage. He says those allegations have already been disproved.
“[We have] explained in full that this $1.2bn is a fictitious story and fraudulent device. The former Director of Audit has addressed it; Sam Raphael, a major player in the programme, has exposed it as a lie; the Prime has exposed it as a lie, myself and others with knowledge of the regulations and the workings of the system have dealt with that at length and ad nauseum.”
Astaphan dismissed the Opposition’s claims as “Fiction, red herring, fraud.”
“The quicker they get to understand that the better thinks debate will just end. Because it’s foolishness,” he insists.