Why the Caribbean is the best place for corporate fugitives to flee

The fugitives or runaway businessmen flush with money made through scams can easily afford to buy citizenship in the Caribbean countries.

Digital Illustration by L. Johnson

Digital Illustration by L. Johnson

Fugitive Indian diamond merchant Mehul Choksi, a co-accused in the $2-billion Punjab National Bank fraud case along with his nephew Nirav Modi, had obtained an Antiguan citizenship in November last year before the scam broke out.

Choksi is not alone in running away to Antigua and Barbuda. Data by TOI reveals that 28 Indians have applied for the citizenship of the Caribbean nation since 2014. Seven of these were granted the hassle-free Antiguan nationality.

Antigua and Barbuda allows dual citizenship to foreigners if they invest in the National Development Fund (NDF), purchase government-approved real estate, or invest in a pre-approved business. To get an Antigua and Barbuda passport, Choksi would just have had to pay a minimum of $200,000 as a contribution to the Antigua NDF, or make an investment of $400,000 in a real estate project in Antigua, or an investment of $ 1,500,000 in a business there.

Anyone with enough cash can also buy a passport for St Kitts and Nevis and have it within four months. All they have to do is to make a $150,000 contribution to the St. Kitts Sustainable Growth Fund or a $200,000 investment in a government real estate project.

Once they have that passport there are 141 countries you can enter visa-free, including the UK and India. Those looking for a low-cost option can consider Dominica where an applicant can get irrevocable second citizenship and passport, with no visit to the country or even physical residency required, for just $100,000. All they have to do is to make a $100,000 (Rs 68 lakh) contribution to the Dominica Government Fund or spend $200,000  on real estate there.

The Caribbean countries offer not just citizenship for money, they also promise a an easy and lax environment to conduct business. For example, most of these countries impose no direct income tax. Many also don’t inheritance, capital gains and dividend income. A tax-free business environment also pulls in a lot of regular businesspersons who are not running away from the law in their own countries.

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