Vanuatu honorary citizenship scheme progressing
The director-general of Vanuatu's Ministry of Internal Affairs says the Government's new scheme for selling honorary citizenship is progressing well, and is already proving more effective than a controversial citizenship sale scheme by the previous Government.
The director-general of Vanuatu's Ministry of Internal Affairs says the Government's scheme for selling honorary citizenship is progressing well.
The scheme, part of the Vanuatu Economic Recovery programme after Cyclone Pam, offers honorary citizenship for applicants who pass screening and pay Vanuatu's Government US$120,000.
The ministry's director-general, George Bogiri, told Johnny Blades the scheme is already more effective than the previous government's Capital Investment Immigration Plan which linked citizenship sale with investment.
GEORGE BOGIRI: It has been launched in Hong Kong. We've put in place the legal framework and we have processed six cases and they've gone through successfully, and all monies paid into Government coffers.
JOHNNY BLADES: It's a different scheme from the CIIP, isn't it?
GB: Exactly, exactly, because the CIIP is an investment programme, whereas the Vanuatu Economic Recovery programme is a contribution programme.
JB: You've got an office on the ground in Hong Kong which is fronting this?
GB: Yeah, Vanuatu signed a contract agreement with the office in Hong Kong. They're the one marketing the product internationally.
JB: There are not middle men like with the previous scheme, the money goes straight to the Government coffers?
GB: They provide wholesale services, to retainers, and when the money comes in, it goes straight to Government coffers. But that does not include their fees. They charge their own fees - US$130,000
or $13 million vatu, is money that comes into Government coffers.
JB: The Government obviously has good reason to do this scheme...
GB: (Cyclone) Pam came at the beginning of the year. It caused a big surprise and we had to look for options to make money for the cyclone recovery. It's a lot of money, so we had to come up with this option, and it looks like it's working out well.
JB: So you've just got the one office in Hong Kong?
GB: That's right. You see, we're looking at the global community. We're starting off with Hong Kong and then what we want to do is learn from the experience we have with the Hong Kong office and then, learning from those experiences, move to other parts of the world.
JB: There have sometimes been honorary citizens who have made news for the wrong reason for Vanuatu in the past. Is there a screening process now?
GB: Yes. The screening process is done by the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Vanuatu Government under the attorney-general's office. That unit is linked with Interpol, and that's where we check all applicants. All the applicants who are cleared by the FIU are allowed to apply for honorary citizenship. Those who are not cleared by FIU through Interpol are not allowed.
JB: So it's working out better than the previous scheme?
GB: Exactly, exactly. There is no risk on the part of the Government and money comes in direct to the Government coffers.
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