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The Vanuatu Citizenship Interviews Part 2: Tackling Illegal Discounts and The 2-Program Paradox

In this second installment of a three-part series on citizenship by investment in Vanuatu, Chairman Warsal of the country’s Citizenship Commission answers some of the most pressing questions the industry has regarding his country’s two citizenship programs:

  • Why are there two citizenship programs selling the same thing at the same price?
  • What is the latest on Jimmy Ng’s VCP?
  • What is the Commission doing to address ongoing problems with illegal discounting?

On a number of occasions in the last year, Vanuatu officials have floated the idea of expanding the number of avenues by which investors can obtain citizenship, notably a real-estate option. Specific plans, however, have yet to materialize, a delay the Chairman chalks up to the legal and economic complexities involved in bringing online further options.

“When the new government came in, they wanted to diversify the program but […] it’s got to work in with the law, with the economics, it’s got to work in with everything that’s already here. The advice they got from the Attorney General’s office has made the government more cautious,” he explains, pointing out that this is why the introduction of new program elements – such as the long-awaited real estate option – is taking time.

Managing mischief
Since the beginning of his tenure in April, 2020, the Chairman has taken a markedly more proactive stance on agent conduct, most recently very publicly cracking down on what he termed “distasteful” marketing practices. One category of misconduct that he has made it a particular priority to prevent is illegal discounting, which he recognizes has become a problem. Lamenting that he had observed many examples of brazenly illegal discounting, Vanuatu DSP agent James Harris said such behavior posed risks not only to program agents but also to the investors who apply through them, as these might see their citizenships rescinded later.

“If I’m an applicant, and I find out that my friend or my neighbor was able to manipulate or get some under-the-table kind of pricing,” asked Harris, “then how am I going to feel? I’m going to feel very aggrieved about it. It undermines the credibility of the whole program.”

Chairman Warsal categorically insisted that any such behavior would be “dealt with accordingly”, presuming the Commission is presented with evidence of the wrongdoing.

“The Commission has sent out a notice to all the agents, advising them that these are the prices set by law and that everyone has to play by the rules. And certainly, if the Commission has evidence of any such [price manipulation] conduct, the Commission will take action because it’s against the law. It has to be stopped.”

Kieron Sharp, CEO of UK-based FACT, a due diligence and risk management company, echoed the Chairman’s view that preventing price manipulation was an indispensable element of preserving the program’s integrity. But keeping tabs on the behavior of agents and applicants, he emphasized, was not something that should end once approvals had been granted.

“It would be wise to look at applicants after they’ve been granted citizenship, for a period of time, to have their backgrounds reviewed, say, on a six-monthly basis, to see whether something that might have been in the background, or wasn’t picked up previously, comes to light,” said Sharp.

For several years now, observers have been asking why Vanuatu has two separate citizenship by investment programs, a state of affairs made all the more perplexing by the removal of differences in pricing and geographical delineations between the two programs last year.

Warsal has previously hinted the VCP’s days might be numbered and, in the video, he explains how the dual-program conundrum arose in the first place. He further admitted that the reason the impasse remains unresolved has to do with certain binding agreements entered into by his predecessors.

“Let me put it this way; because of the contract signed by the previous government, the VCP is still here.”

Watch the full video below:

More Stories About Vanuatu

Citizenship Commission Chairman Warsal explains why Vanuatu has two CIPs and what he’s doing to counter brazen examples of illegal discounts.

In the first video in a three-part series, we talk about yellow passports, honorary citizenship, and the new chairman’s plans for international engagement.

Chairman Warsal is cracking down on inappropriate marketing, starting with a Dubai-firm, but says many others are guilty of the same, and worse.

 

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The post The Vanuatu Citizenship Interviews Part 2: Tackling Illegal Discounts and The 2-Program Paradox appeared first on Investment Migration Insider.

The Vanuatu Citizenship Interviews Part 1: Yellow Passports, Honorary Designations, Engaging With the World

IMI is pleased to be able to present the first-ever interview series with a sitting Chairman of the Vanuatu Citizenship Commission, Ronald Warsal.

Chairman Ronald Warsal, who took the reins at the Citizenship Commission only in April 2020, has approached his task with a great deal more openness to the outside world than his predecessors. In October, he threw the lid of the hitherto “black box” of Vanuatu citizenship by investment data wide open by releasing an extensive raft of data on applications (exclusively in IMI) going all the way back to 2013 in an unprecedented show of transparency.

Warsal has also been tasked with improving program integrity and operations, reviewing and reforming the country’s two citizenship by investment programs – the DSP and the VCP – and determining whether mistakes of former administrations warrant rectification. Among the tangible outcomes of that process, so far, has been the Chairman’s serving a notice of termination to the agent that exclusively controls the VCP (one of two concurrent official CIPs in the country), attempts to resolve the “honorary” citizenship question, and, most recently, the public chastisement of international promoters of Vanuatu citizenship whose methods are considered inappropriate.

In the panel discussion, Warsal is accompanied by CEO James Elcocke-Harris of the Vanuatu Investment Migration Bureau, locally designated DSP agent Daniel Agius, as well as CEO of FACT UK, Kieron Sharp, the latter of whom has a background in the London Metropolitan Police and Interpol.

In this first video, we raised a number of pressing questions to the panelists:

  • Will Vanuatu introduce yellow passports for its investor citizens?
  • Has the “honorary” citizenship issue been adequately addressed, not merely through changes in certificates and passports but also in legal terms?
  • What is the perception of the program and its perceived shortcomings among international law enforcement and international bodies?

In subsequent videos, we’ll discuss:

  • What is Vanuatu doing to remain competitive with the Caribbean?
  • What concrete plans exist for the introduction of additional investment options, such as for real estate?
  • Will Vanuatu continue to have two separate CIPs that sell, essentially, the same product?
  • How does the Vanuatu due diligence process work, how is it changing and improving, and how is it different from that of other CIPs?
  • How are processes being digitized to adapt to a world in which travel has become fraught with complications?
  • Why are so many agents illegally discounting the Vanuatu DSP and what’s being done to mitigate the problem?

Watch the first part of the interview series below.

More Stories About Vanuatu

In the first video in a three-part series, we talk about yellow passports, honorary citizenship, and the new chairman’s plans for international engagement.

Chairman Warsal is cracking down on inappropriate marketing, starting with a Dubai-firm, but says many others are guilty of the same, and worse.

In a historic release prepared exclusively for IMI, Vanuatu shares, for the first time, statistics on all its past and present CBI programs.

 

Our readers are the best-informed professionals in the investment migration industry.
Once a week, we’ll send you a curated newsletter with the week’s top stories.

Want updates every day?
Be the first in your company to know about breaking investment migration news; Get the most important stories delivered.

The post The Vanuatu Citizenship Interviews Part 1: Yellow Passports, Honorary Designations, Engaging With the World appeared first on Investment Migration Insider.