Watch out for crooks in investor citizenship plan

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Watch out for crooks in investor citizenship plan


MOSES

KenInvest managing director Moses Ikiara. PHOTO | FILE

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Summary

  • Kenya’s immigration laws currently require a foreigner to continuously live in the country for at least seven years to qualify for citizenship by registration though the Constitution gives room for amendments to the regulation.
  • The State agency hopes that providing second citizenship to rich foreign investors with high impact economic enterprises would help raise inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI).

That the Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest ) is preparing changes to the law to allow citizenship for wealthy foreign investors is laudable given the tightening global race for limited financial resources.

Kenya’s immigration laws currently require a foreigner to continuously live in the country for at least seven years to qualify for citizenship by registration though the Constitution gives room for amendments to the regulation.

The State agency hopes that providing second citizenship to rich foreign investors with high impact economic enterprises would help raise inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI).

Investor citizenship schemes such as the one targeted by the KIA have become popular globally amid thinning financial resources. While the schemes have helped improve FDI for some countries, they are fraught with risks that the KIA must comprehensively review even as it forges ahead with its plans.

For instance, a recent comprehensive audit of investor citizen schemes in the European Union (EU) found risks of security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption, which were exacerbated by a lack of transparency on how the systems were operated.

Kenya can draw important lessons from the experiences of other nations and come up with better managed schemes to limit the risk of the country being viewed as a safe haven for money launderers and tax evaders.

Such a negative tag comes with consequences because some principled investors may opt to ship out to avoid tainting their business credentials.

KenInvest must therefore factor into its plans proper background checks on applicants for the citizenship schemes so that we don’t end up providing shelter to crooks.

Additionally, there should be proper monitoring of tax evasion to ensure that those granted citizenship do not take advantage of these schemes to benefit from privileged tax rules.

An effective investor citizenship scheme would require transparency and information exchange with other countries on how the system is run so that criminals already flagged in other countries may have nowhere to hide.

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