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Embracing Evolution: How Antigua And Barbuda’s Usage Of Digital Currency And Strong Political Leadership Are Addressing The Challenges Posed By Banking’s De-risking.

By Patrick Peters
CEO, ClientReferrals.com Ltd
 As an immigration professional or applicant, if you     have ever dealt with the Caribbean  Citizenship by     Investment Programs (CIPs), you have most likely     experienced delays in transferring funds to these       countries.
 The root cause of these wire transfer delays in   smaller     economies is “de-risking”, which   is defined by the US Department of State as “the   phenomenon of financial institutions terminating or   restricting business relationships with clients or   categories of clients to avoid, rather than manage,   risk.” 
 Simply put, the risk of being inadvertently involved   in the movement of illicit funds is being subject to   an immense fine.
 This is all about the Correspondent Banking Relationships (CBR) - if a US correspondent bank deems one beneficiary bank as unacceptably risky, it is easier and more cost-effective to terminate their CBR with that beneficiary bank instead of managing the risk. Here is a comprehensive IMF Working Paper on this topic.
In the Caribbean CIP nations, there are very few banks, to begin with, and even fewer banks accept funds related to the CIPs. If any of these banks lose their CBRs, they could not receive US dollars, which would be devastating to the economic wellbeing of the country. For that reason, those few key banks have to protect their CBRs with all their might. 
This has translated into each bank conducting extensive AML/KYC compliance work on every single CIP-related transaction. This detailed work then creates a backlog in the money movement department and tacks on additional banking due diligence fees.
As we always strive to ensure our partners and their clients have a positive experience, we have always been able to find ways to eliminate or reduce these processing times and fees. However, Antigua and Barbuda’s PM Gaston Browne is fighting very hard to find permanent solutions to what he calls “unfair treatment of smaller economies”.
(Photo: Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, the Hon, Gaston Browne (r) and United States Congresswoman, Maxine Waters. Credit: https://today.caricom.org/2021/03/08/pm-browne-latest-development-on-de-risking-a-major-victory-for-…/)
Digital Assets Business Bill
In 2020, Antigua and Barbuda passed into law a Digital Assets Business Bill, which creates a regulatory framework for digital asset businesses and consumers.
This Bill is sure to pave the way for businesses who want to leverage digital currency and blockchain technology, such as those who wish to issue or sell digital currency, and even help make the technology more widespread from a consumer standpoint.
Bitcoin Cash in Antigua
I was in Antigua very recently and was pleasantly surprised to see so many businesses accepting Bitcoin Cash (BCH). One restaurant owner told me “It’s amazing; a person just pulls out their phone, the code is scanned, and my BCH account is credited. Once a month I receive the funds in local currency, just like I would with the local credit card service providers.”
You can read an interesting article here about the widespread use of BCH and its positive impact on local businesses and consumers. Antigua and Barbuda are truly one of the leading nations on digital currency and it’s a testament to their willingness to find solutions to problems as they arise.
Imminent Improved Money Movement - CIU
The Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) continues to work towards identifying and implementing additional solutions for receiving funds for the program. Mrs. Charmaine Quinland-Donovan recently told me “My team and I regularly interface with our domestic banking partners to ensure timely processing and release of incoming funds. We are hoping to soon have an announcement that will further enhance the ease with which the financial transactions related to the investment migration applications are concluded.”
Improved Money Movement – CIP Service Providers
It has also become apparent that CIP service providers are becoming more and more “open for business” when it comes to digital currency. We here at ClientReferrals, along with some of our promoting partners, are exploring (or already accepting) digital currency as a form of payment. 
Antigua and Barbuda have become the program of choice for the so-called “Bitcoin millionaires”, and it makes sense. The country has taken concrete steps to become “digital asset-friendly” and applicants are taking notice. We have seen an influx of applicants whose net worth has been significantly generated by taking risks and investing early in various cryptocurrencies. 
The Best is Yet to Come!
One of the main reasons that explain the incredible growth of Caribbean CIPs is the great simplicity of these programs. Although sending money to smaller nations has become more difficult in recent years, Antigua and Barbuda’s astute leadership are ensuring the program’s prosperity and ease of use for all parties involved will continue well into the future.
We are witnessing a truly fascinating phenomenon – the birth of a money revolution, where technologies and systems are evolving toward a more user-friendly experience.
The founders of ClientReferrals have been successfully assisting immigration professionals since 1997. Our beginnings were spent in the Canada and Quebec immigrant investor programs, and in 2014, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda appointed us to be their primary representative for the NDF Contribution Option. We never solicit the end clients so our partners, the immigration professionals, can be confident we never compete with them. Our service level and financial conditions are second to none. Contact us to find out what we can offer you, it will be our honor to have the opportunity to help you serve your clients. To learn more about us, please visit www.ClientReferrals.com or search for us on LinkedIn.