Canadians are playing a key role in the lucrative and rapidly growing worldwide business of cash for passports, an industry that Canada, the United States and the European Union have warned could threaten national security, a CBC News investigation reveals.
Industry insiders paint a picture of a multi-million dollar industry that runs in large part through Canada, connecting wealthy individuals from areas like China, Russia and the Middle East to citizenship by investment programs around the world. In return, millions of dollars in commissions are being paid to middlemen — often Canadians.
Estimates by top industry insiders of just how much the citizenship by investment business is worth each year range from $1 billion to $10 billion.
One of the biggest attractions for potential investors is the visa-free access the passports offer to more than 100 countries, including the European Union. Without that access, citizens of some countries like China or Russia have to go through the paperwork of applying for separate visas for each country they want to visit.
Canadians aren’t only involved in promoting the programs — they’re also designing and running some of them.
Antigua and Barbuda’s program was designed by Don Myatt, a former Canadian federal public servant who worked with Henley and Partners, which designs and markets citizenship by investment programs.
Myatt went on to become the program’s first manager. Chisanga Chekwe, a former Ontario deputy minister, was its second.
“One runs into Canadians all of the time,” says Kristin Surak, a professor at the SOAS University of London who has been studying the industry for the past two years.