13 Oct 2020

Concern in Vanuatu over appointment of citizenship agents

5:56 am on 13 October 2020

Concerns have been raised with Vanuatu's parliamentary accounts committee over the appointment of new citizenship agents in the country.

The chairman of Vanuatu's Citizenship Commission, Ronald Warsal.

The chairman of Vanuatu's Citizenship Commission, Ronald Warsal. Photo: Investment Immigration Insider

This comes after the Vanuatu Citizenship Commission reported an agent had submitted fraudulent documentation in an application.

For around $US150,000 anyone without a criminal conviction can apply for honorary Vanuatu citizenship.

The benefits of the status listed on the government citizenship website include banking and corporate access to the country's tax haven facilities and visa free travel to 125 countries.

Prior to Covid-19 the lucrative program, which raked in $US84 million in a three month period this year, accounted for about a third of government revenue.

But with the pandemic closing international borders it was now the main source of revenue for the tourism-starved country.

The body governing citizenship sales is the Vanuatu Citizenship Commission.

The commission's Acting General Secretary, Samuel Garae, told a parliamentary committee hearing the commission used to have less than 30 citizenship agents.

But Garae said under new chairman Ronald Warsal this number had increased to over 80, with most of the new agents appointed by the chairman himself.

Garae told the committee Warsal should not be appointing agents without input from the rest of the commission.

He said most of the new agents were not registered with the commission and this was proving problematic.

Garae said the commission had set a revenue target of around $US61.8 million for 2020 but the government had asked them to increase this over $US79.5M.