In a covert web of intrigue and high-stakes investment, Bangladesh’s affluent citizens, including politicians, businessmen, and influential figures from the public and private sectors, are clandestinely pouring money into the passport projects of obscure Caribbean island nations. Thousands are seeking refuge, driven by concerns over the country’s safety, and are willing to go to great lengths to secure a foreign identity. The passports, obtained through a special citizenship scheme, are already in circulation, raising eyebrows among intelligence agencies and prompting government scrutiny.
At the frontline of this mysterious trend is the Caribbean island of Antigua and Barbuda, where individuals like Anisuzzaman Chowdhury and his wife, Imrana Zaman Chowdhury, have acquired passports through a special citizenship scheme. The legitimacy of their citizenship is now under scrutiny, prompting the Passport Directorate in Dhaka to seek intelligence agency clarification on the intricacies of their citizenship acquisition process.
Similarly, AKM Iftekhar Hossain and his family from Gulshan have raised eyebrows by flaunting their Antigua and Barbuda passports. The government has initiated inquiries into the transparency of their citizenship acquisition process, particularly in light of heightened concerns over money laundering.
The Passport Directorate’s proactive measures include reaching out to National Security Intelligence (NSI), the Special Branch (SB) of Police, and the Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) of Bangladesh Bank. The BFIU has emphasized the necessity of Bangladesh Bank’s prior approval for sending money outside the country for citizenship by investment, shedding light on potential money laundering activities within this intricate web of transactions.
Beyond Antigua and Barbuda, the island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis emerges as another focal point for Bangladesh’s elite seeking dual citizenship. Abdul Fattah, a businessman from Feni, has acquired citizenship from this lesser-known island state. However, his recent ‘no visa’ application has raised suspicions, prompting the NSI to conduct a detailed field verification to uncover potential hidden motives behind his travel plans.
Ziaur Rahman, a resident of Gulshan, is another individual who has opted for St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship, adding to the intrigue surrounding this trend. Efforts to trace Rahman for clarification have been futile, leaving unanswered questions about the motivations driving Bangladesh’s affluent towards foreign citizenship.
Chittagong’s industrial magnate, Mohammad Mostafa Haider of TK Group, and his wife, Fatema Salma Kamal, have added a new dimension to this covert exodus by securing citizenship from Grenada. The government’s concerns about their choice have sparked inquiries into the reasoning behind their decision to obtain foreign citizenship.
The appeal of Caribbean passports lies in their unique offering of visa-free access to numerous countries worldwide, including those in Europe and America. Small island states like Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Malta, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Vanuatu provide citizenship through a one-time investment ranging from one and a half to two hundred thousand US dollars. Expedited processes through housing projects or direct investments in national development funds have made these passports an attractive prospect for Bangladesh’s elite.
Capitalizing on this growing trend is CM International Immigration Service, a Dhaka-based company that offers a suite of services related to second passports and permanent residence permits. Their ‘hot package’ involving the Caribbean island nations’ passport scheme has enticed investors with promises of hassle-free travel and absolute secrecy. Investment amounts, now raised to 150,000 USD, are channeled through special agents, ensuring the utmost confidentiality of clients’ identities and contact details.
Faruq, an executive from CM International Immigration Service, revealed that the investment in the citizenship schemes of Caribbean island states is currently under scrutiny. Despite recent restrictions on ‘No Visa’ for Caribbean passports, Farooq admitted that these passports still facilitate visa-free travel to Europe and America, making them a sought-after commodity.
The revelation of this covert passport scheme has raised red flags within intelligence agencies. A report from the Special Branch of Police five years ago expressed concerns about the activities of international terrorist organizations and money laundering in these Caribbean islands. A subsequent meeting convened by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2019 highlighted the need to investigate potential connections between Bangladeshis obtaining citizenship in Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis with international terrorist groups. The meeting recommended seeking the opinion of the BFIU to verify potential money laundering before issuing ‘No Visa’ for Caribbean passports. However, the progress on compiling a list of those who obtained citizenship has been mysteriously stalled.
Director of Passport Directorate, AKM Mazharul Islam, acknowledged the monitoring of investments in the citizenship schemes of Caribbean island states. Despite recent restrictions on ‘No Visa’ for Caribbean passports, he clarified that Bangladeshis holding passports from the USA, Canada, or other countries still receive the facility as usual. The government, he added, is taking necessary measures in accordance with the ministry’s directive to issue ‘No Visa’ only for the passports of certain identified island states.
As the government grapples with the implications of its elite seeking shelter abroad, the mystery surrounding the motives behind these foreign passports deepens. Questions of money laundering, potential ties to international terrorism, and the clandestine nature of these operations leave Bangladesh at a crossroads, torn between the safety concerns of its citizens and the need to ensure the integrity of its national security.
The coming months may reveal more about the hidden layers of this complex web of intrigue. The government’s response will determine the fate of those seeking refuge beyond its borders and whether stringent measures will be put in place to curtail potential threats associated with this growing trend. The intricate dance between the government, intelligence agencies, and the affluent seeking alternative citizenship underscores the multifaceted challenges facing Bangladesh in an era of global mobility and shifting geopolitical dynamics. As the investigation unfolds, the nation awaits answers and clarity on the motivations behind this clandestine Caribbean passport exodus.