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When applicants wishing to acquire Citizenship by Investment (CBI) passports, which they are seeking to obtain from countries in Europe and the East Caribbean that offer them for sale, They erroneously believe that they are receiving legal advice from competent, qualified attorneys at CBI consultancies. Nothing could be further from the truth; they are being fed marketing talking points, often from sales agents who have never been to law school, or if they are lawyers, are not admitted to the practice of law in the jurisdictions where they are rendering what amounts to legal advice.This is known as the Unauthorized Practice of Law, and as a result,  CBI applicants are not being properly given full and accurate legal advice, to their detriment, which they often discover later on, long after the sale.

If you look closely at the websites of the most prominent CBI consultancies, they refer to their staff as "legal specialists, " and not attorneys, solicitors or lawyers. This is because, to render legal advice to a client, which is defined  as  " The giving of a professional or formal opinion, regarding the substance or procedure of a matter,  in relation to a particular factual situation. The provision of legal advice will often involve  analyzing a set of facts, and advising a person to take a specific course of action, based upon the applicable law."

The individual rendering the advice must not only be an attorney, he or she must also be formally admitted to practice in the jurisdiction where the client is being directed to apply for a CBI citizenship and passport. If you inquire, you will find that most of the so-called legal specialists or legal experts selling CBI products have not graduated from law school, they are merely salesmen, and the very few who possess legal educations are NOT admitted in the countries where they are advising their clients to purchase CBI products.

What are the clients usually missing, when they buy a CBI citizenship from such an unqualified person:

(1) Information on the possible tax consequences which may arise from their purchase.
(2) Details of how the jurisdiction can revoke or suspend their citizenship and passport.
(3) Information on whether they will be subject to increased risks, especially scrutiny from
law enforcement agencies, customs and immigration officials, and other  governments, as the direct result of their using their CBI passport in international travel, including interrogation from border agencies.
(4) Information about the possible public publication of the fact that they hold a CBI passport from a jurisdiction known to sell CBI products to money launderers, white collar criminals, Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and other high-risk individuals.
(5) Negative or unwanted publicity in their home countries, if international media reports on their possession of a CBI passport.

Most CBI applicants do not retain independent counsel to advise them about their CBI purchase, which is a major mistake, for the CBI consultancy, who receives a large commission in the sale, will certainly not be objective about their advice. unfortunately, the countries issuing CBI passports, who receive large fees from the applicants, will never complain about the quality of advice rendered to their buyers. Let the CBI buyers beware, caveat emptor, when it comes to CBI products, lest they get burned.

Contributed by Kenneth Rijock - Financial Crime Consultant

Chronicles of Monte Friesner - Financial Crime Analyst