Thousands of Bangladesh nationals are accused of holding “secret passports” of several foreign countries, including Caribbean island nations, which they have acquired by spending hundreds of millions of dollars. Most disturbing information here is – some of the dark-money holders from Bangladesh are making investment in various business in Dominica – a Caribbean island nation, where they are having Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit as partner, while according to sources, Skerrit is infamous for entering into business partnership with corrupts, money-launderers, drug-traders and even mafias from foreign nations.
According to media reports, major portion of the cash required for business citizenship or investing in businesses in foreign countries, including Caribbean nations are done through illegal money-laundering channel. Bangladesh authorities are yet to seek list of local holding passports of those foreign countries. It said, amongst the Caribbean nations, Antigua is the key destination to a largest number of Bangladesh nationals buying citizenship against the payment of US$100,000-200,000.
AKM Iftekhar Hussain (Passport number AB 068820), a resident of Dhaka’s post Gulshan area applied for “no visa” facilities along with other members of his family including wife Syeda Asefa Afrin Ali (Passport number AB 068832), daughter Zariya Farhan Hussain and son Zaiyan Wasif Hussain. AKM Iftekhar Hussain is the owner of a business conglomerate named ‘F Karim Group’. He also a member of Gulshan Youth Club.
Abdul Fattah, a resident of Feni district bought citizenship of St Kitts and Nevis (Passport number RE 105835). He is owner of a company named ‘Express Systems Limited’. Fattah bought citizenship of St Kitts and Nevis on March 18, 2021. His citizenship registration number of C-51265.
Ziaur Rahman, another resident of Dhaka’s Gulshan area purchased citizenship of St Kitts and Nevis on June 26, 2018. His passport number of RE-0070190. Rahman hails from 56, Bundle Road, Pathharghata, Chattogram (Chittagong).
Eminent businessman and owner of ‘T K Group’ Muhammad Mustafa Hayder and his wife Fatema Salma Kamal purchased citizenship of Grenada on May 4, 2024, which are valid until May 4, 2028. Mustafa Hayder’s Grenadian passport number if GA-085091 and his wife’s is GA-085090.
It may be mentioned here that, members of several terrorist groups including Al Qaeda, Islamic State (ISIS), Hezbollah and Hamas are holding passports issued by Caribbean nations, while according to counterterrorism experts, these terrorist groups are investing heavily in various ventures, including drug and arms trafficking, sex trafficking and money-laundering. Law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh are in total dark about any possible connections between terrorist groups and locals holding citizenship of those nations.
On December 8, 2019, Bangladesh’s Home Ministry called a meeting to assess connections between locals and international terrorist groups as well as how such a huge amount of cash is being laundered out of the country. During this meeting, Caribbean nations including Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis and Dominica mainly came into focal point. During this meeting, it was decided that Bangladesh authorities shall take required steps to collect names of locals who have purchased citizenship of those countries. Later the entire process was put on pause.
Controversy centering Dominica citizenship
Caribbean nation Dominica is accused of selling citizenship under its ‘citizenship by investment’ program, which allows the purchase of a passport for a base price of US$100,000, whereas Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is accused of selling citizenship to oligarchs, officials from repressive regimes, politicians, human rights abusers, drug and weapon traffickers, money-launderers, and notorious criminals.
In 2023, an investigation led by the SEC, in collaboration with multiple international media partners, has unveiled the widespread abuse of citizenship by investment programs in the Caribbean, particularly in Dominica. The probe shed light on the intricate web of fraudulent schemes that allowed criminals to secure citizenship in exchange for substantial investments, tarnishing the reputation of these programs.
The investigation, titled “Dominica: Passports of the Caribbean”, exposed several alarming instances of abuse. Notably, it revealed that the Dominican authorities granted citizenship to multiple high-profile individuals, including sanctioned Russian oligarchs and a controversial crypto investor wanted in Singapore. The findings have sparked global concerns about the integrity and credibility of the citizenship acquisition process in the region.
One of the prime cases outlined in the investigation involved Danhong “Jean” Chen, an immigration lawyer from Atherton, California, who was indicted in 2018 for orchestrating a fraudulent scheme with her husband. The couple amassed over US$12 million by embezzling funds from foreign investors seeking US residency over nearly a decade. Chen’s escape from the US using a Dominican passport under an assumed name raised serious questions about the program’s oversight and due diligence protocols.
The Dominican citizenship by investment program, touted as the “fastest and most affordable” in the world, has been a lucrative venture for the Dominican government, generating significant revenue since its inception in 1993.
However, the program’s lax scrutiny of applicants, as highlighted by the US State Department and the UK government, has drawn criticism from international authorities.
Dominica is not alone in offering citizenship by investment. At least four other Caribbean islands offer similar programs, as do several countries in Europe and the Middle East, including Turkey. But what sets Dominica apart is that it has long faced criticism from Western governments for its lax attitude towards ensuring that suspected criminals and politically exposed people don’t get passports from the country.
In a 2019 report, the US State Department called Dominica’s due diligence “lax” and stated that the country “does not always deny citizenship to those who are red flagged.” A follow-up report published in 2022 said that “Dominica sometimes issues passports despite adverse information uncovered during vetting”. The UK, which previously allowed visa-free access to Dominican citizens, introduced a visa requirement on July 19. In a statement, the UK’s home secretary Suella Braverman said that Dominica’s citizenship investment program had “shown clear and evident abuse of the scheme, including the granting of citizenship to individuals known to pose a risk to the UK”.
“[Dominica doesn’t] have any other resources besides tourism. So that’s why they do this”, says Reaz Jafri, a private client and tax attorney at law firm Withersworldwide who focuses on immigration. “They’re relatively inexpensive. People do it primarily to have a good travel document. The due diligence, with 10 being very rigorous…I think these Caribbean countries are maybe around 5 or 6”.
Despite the controversy, the program has been a massive revenue generator for the Dominican government since it was first established in 1993. Skerrit, who has served as prime minister since 2004, announced in 2020 that the country had raised US$1.2 billion from the program in the previous three years alone. In the 2021-22 financial year, the most recent year where full records are available, Dominica received 459 million East Caribbean dollars (US$170 million) from the citizenship by investment program—54% of total revenues.