If St Lucia wishes to avoid the scandals that have permeated most of the other East Caribbean CBI programs, it had better start vetting companies that are seeking to establish a presence in their country, attracted by the prospect of lucrative CBI-related business. A dodgy financial advisory was allowed to purchase a private bank operating in St Lucia, and this act of due diligence malpractice, on behalf of the country's banking regulators, could result in grossly unsuitable CBI applicants, or even sanctioned terrorists, with CBI passports, as they might use this private bank to bring their illicit funds in.
The Dubai-based DeVere Group is a high-powered sales company, whose subsidiaries and affiliates have been sanctioned in several jurisdictions, including Singapore & Hong Kong, an UK FCA Cease & Desist, and a pending SEC investigation, is owned by Nigel Green, who was formerly with the failed * Britex International, and who later bought Britex. The DeVere Group purchased the private banking license of Dominica-based Arton Bank*, naming it DeVere Group Bank.
Devere's aggressive sales staff, generally untrained in finance, have a long history of client complaints, closed offices, unhappy employees who had to quit, and misrepresentations of material facts to customers. It presents a clear and present danger to the CBI program, and its banking license should never have been approved for St Lucia operation.
Five seconds on any web browser would have informed St Lucia regulators that the DeVere Group should not have been approved to operate a local financial institution, where funds, coming from opaque sources in the Middle East, could support CBI applications from criminal elements, or even members of specially designated terrorist organizations.This is not only totally unacceptable, from a compliance standpoint, it indicates that St Lucia, in its zeal to get on the CBI cash flow bandwagon, has failed to act as a proper gatekeeper.
Given the new financial support, granted to Middle Eastern terrorist organizations, including Hamas & Hezbollah, by Iran, there is a danger that St Lucia CBI passports will end up in the wrong hands. Will the Government of St Lucia be the solution, or simply another bad CBI jurisdiction ?
* We wonder who in Dominica's banking regulatory agency approved the sale, given the buyer's history, but that negligence is a story for another time. It does validate claims that there are major due diligence deficiencies regarding offshore banking licenses in Dominica.
Chronicles of Monte Friesner - Financial Crime Analyst
Contributed by Kenneth Rijock - Financial Crime Consultant