Citizen By Investment – A Fresh Frontier For Commercial Lawyers

When I left Cambridge University with a law degree, I didn’t imagine that 20 years later I would be helping governments in the Caribbean structure their Citizenship-by-Investment (CBI) policies and regulations or even developing luxury resorts.

It was by chance that I heard about the concept of CBI. It seemed to offer benefits to everybody: investment capital for developers in an area that is generally overlooked by traditional lenders, while the investors received not only a sustainable investment, but also mobility, security, and tax advantages in the shape of a new passport, as well as the ability to migrate to more developed economies.

CBI, also known as economic citizenship, is the process of obtaining a second citizenship and passport by investing in the economy of the host country. It legally confers citizenship status faster than traditional immigration processes and does so without requiring investors to put their lives on hold.

In the wake of the Covid pandemic, high net worth investors across emerging markets are experiencing significant anxieties – these arise from economic, social or political issues.  A second passport from a stable, peaceful country can be life-saving in the event of any kind of political unrest in one’s home country. This type of insurance is priceless for investors and their families, and thus presents a significant opportunity for legal practice for the daring lawyer.

The CBI industry, in 2019 was conservatively estimated to be a USD 21.4 billion market that is growing at 23% a year. In 2017-18, Malta raised US$480 million; Cyprus US$1.2 billion, and Grenada US$117 million. Other CBI schemes – Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Jordan, Turkey, and Vanuatu– have between them earned about US$800 million to US$1.5 billion. Thus, there is clearly a huge opportunity for lawyers who are drawn to commerce, finance and law.

For any aspiring business person, the law is a wonderful training, and vice versa for any lawyer aspiring to delve deeper into commerce or finance. To begin, I recognized that I, also, had to understand the world of finance, so I joined one of the world’s largest banks in one of the fastest-growing cities, HSBC in Dubai. Thereafter, I was retained by Kuwaiti Investment Company to establish their presence in the Dubai International Financial Centre. Through the combination of these experiences, I was suitably prepared for an opportunity to be a lawyer and entrepreneur in the CBI Industry.

I began my first project with the Park Hyatt Group in St Kitts and Nevis, where I also, had my first clients. Thereafter, we built the Cabrits Resort Kempinski in Dominica. One of our latest projects Six Senses La Sagesse, Grenada, promises to be our most exciting because of the peculiarities of the CBI scheme which offers a USD 220,000 investment in exchange for the citizenship and passport as well as the access to invest and reside in the United States.

Studying law offers the opportunity to develop a range of skills and explore many aspects of human life. It gives you the chance to sharpen your mind, strengthen your understanding and deepen your experience across the full range of humanities and social sciences, should you acquire both breadth of understanding and depth in the areas that interest you most. I think that the CBI Industry is a new frontier worth considering for interested lawyers, especially for those young enough to retain the ability to return to private practice should circumstances dictate.

Mohammed Asaria.

About the Author

Mohammed Asaria is Managing Director and Board Member of Range Developments, an international luxury hospitality development company that develops luxury resorts in the Eastern Caribbean under Citizenship-by-Investment programs. Mr. Asaria has a dual background in law and investment banking.

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