According to the website of the Antigua & Barbuda Government High Commission in London, Antigua's attractions for investment include a robust ICT infrastructure and strong investor protection, safety and security.
However, if one should continue to explore websites not controlled by the Government of Antigua & Barbuda, a different reality will quickly become exposed.
Since Antigua & Barbuda proclaimed its Independence on November 1, 1981, its Government chose opaque opportunism and self-enrichment as a strategy for governance.
It has been suggested that such is the natural outcome of the history of slavery, where the master and his interest were paramount, followed by colonialism, where the relationship between those who governed and those who were governed was only slightly less rigid.
Independence gave the people of Antigua & Barbuda freedom of choice between two political parties and that became the local definition of Democracy.
The fact that the two parties act in a similar way does not appear to matter or detract from the democratic freedom to choose and pledge allegiance to one of these parties and join in outrage against the other, blaming it for all the ills that befall the relatively small group of individuals living in this twin-island state.
While the pendulum swings between the parties with time and accumulated frustration, there is little difference in the outcome of an election, or in what follows.
Antigua's short history has earned it a universally recognised reputation for mal-governance, money laundering, arms and human trafficking, drug-dealing and harbouring fugitives from justice. While causing legitimate entities to steer clear, for example, all international banks have severed their association and closed their offices on Antigua; this reputation has created a powerful magnet attracting the less desirable profiteers that do not flourish in a legitimate and transparent environment.
From 1981 forward, several entities allowed government ministers to participate in the misbegotten profits from shady financial deals. Many of these have been documented in international studies and reports, and by writers such as Robert Coram in his "Caribbean Time Bomb" and Sir Louis Blom-Cooper in "Guns for Antigua".
R. Allen Stanford's appearance on Antigua was not caused by the natural beauty of its beaches.
He found a tailor made environment with a ready group of individuals, willing to let him deploy his net, provided they were allowed to play the game. The people of Antigua had no clue as to what was going on but were pleased with being given higher paying jobs, and, as always, they asked no questions.
Stanford's Ponzi scheme took almost twenty years to be exposed. Stanford is now in jail, doing more time than the most optimistic life expectancy can project.
Thousands of investors have lost all that they had invested; in many cases, their entire life's savings.
Dozens of law suits have been filed. Some are still ongoing.
And what happened on Antigua? Very little.
The Government "approved" Receivers twice. The first receivers were dismissed for corruption by the Courts in Canada. Between the Government and the Receivers, the Government took over all of Stanford's real estate.
Stanford's local bank, known as the Bank of Antigua, was "saved" by being cannibalised by a joint venture between the Government and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. All the ministers involved with Stanford's scheme have expressed their shock at being misled by the charming Texan "billionaire" and have been using "the Stanford Experience" for the last six years as a convenient excuse for any and all economic constraints imposed by them on the people of Antigua.
Of course, Leroy King, once the Island's chief financial regulator, named and indicted as Stanford's co-conspirator, has never been extradited to the United States, in spite of an existing treaty between the two countries. The given reason being that what he is charged with is perfectly legal in Antigua!
Only too true. There is hardly any law against corruption. In spite of the vaunted bills and amendments passed into law on a regular basis by Parliament, none of them are enforced and conflict of interest is universally understood to be a smart business opportunity.
Such an opportunity has now been highlighted by recently promulgated new banking legislation encouraged by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. It is proposed that the Regulator in each of its member states determines and approves the future issue of finance licences, easily overturning decisions of local banks, ostensibly to harmonise legislation.
Legislation already passed in Antigua & Barbuda, as well as in St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines allows the ECCB to grant a banking licence in one country of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union to be applied automatically in other member states.
The concluding remarks from the Library of Congress article entitled "Antigua and Barbuda: History of Corruption and the Stanford Case" do not resort to euphemisms in stating the reason for radical change in Antigua's banking sector needs to occur:
"Despite an absence of reported prosecutions, Antigua and Barbuda has gained a reputation for having had governments in which officials accepted bribes in return for legal favors.
To some observers, this issue presents considerable cause for concern: to others, it is an open invitation.
Even before the new "Citizenship by Investment Program" added the attainment of an Antiguan passport with a minimum of due diligence as a bonus to participation in the Antiguan economy, a new batch of "would be Stanford's" started arriving on Antigua.
As could be anticipated, they all deal in casinos, gaming and real estate developments that include banks, casinos and gambling.
Calvin Ayre, owner of "Bodog", has been living on Antigua for some time now. The new ALP administration under Prime Minister Gaston Browne is encouraging him to explore a number of new projects in Antigua, yet to be identified.
Meanwhile, he is featured on the Homeland Security Investigation's "10 Most Wanted Fugitives" list posted on the US Immigration and Customs' website. He is wanted for operating an illegal gambling business and money laundering.
Bryan Micon is a recent arrival, having fled Nevada earlier this year amid claims of operating an unlicensed interactive gaming system using Bitcoin for all financial transactions. He has given the press an interview in which he shared his plans for moving the base of his Seals with Clubs enterprise to Antigua. He has subsequently been charged with a Class B felony and the US has applied for his extradition, which to-date has not been complied with.
Kylin International financier and developer Lawrence McDonough, partnered with his Chinese wife, is proposing a US $1.8 billion investment on Antigua & Barbuda through "30 key individual components". No details have been offered. Meanwhile, Kylin International has been seeking approval for a US $6.3 Billion project in East Grand Bahama since 2011.
Bahamas' Prime Minister has publicly suggested that there is a better fit for Kylin in Antigua. McDonough has brushed this off as a "misunderstanding".
On his first day in office, almost a year ago, Prime Minister Browne signed a MoA with Yida Zhang, introduced as a "Chinese billionaire", operating under the corporate umbrella of YIDA International. According to the Government's press release, the Agreement was to pave the way for the US $750 million development of another Stanford-owned property, ostensibly purchased by YIDA from Stanford Liquidators.
Earlier this month, a "ground breaking" ceremony, which entailed the turning of sand on an empty beach on Guyana Island, coincided with the filing of a legal action against YIDA by real estate brokers who are yet to be paid for their services.
In an unusual show of independence, it has also been noted in the press that advice has been given on Wall Street to sell shares of YIDA Holdings Co., based on the poor rating given the Company by a Street Ratings report dated May 3, 2015.
These events triggered a rant from YIDA's Vice President Kenneth Kwok, in which he chastised and threatened anyone criticising the Company or this project. An apology of sorts was subsequently offered and the direct quote from the Daily Observer stated "the Vice President spoke of his extremely high alcoholic content."
However, these events also triggered a sober response from the Prime Minister: an announcement of a new bill to be taken to Parliament, increasing media censorship when the well-being of the nation is at stake.
For the only remaining privately owned media group left in Antigua, this is not an idle threat.
While most dictatorships resort to muzzling the inconvenient truth, the rest of the world remains appalled at this tactic and continues to battle on the side of freedom of speech.
In a recent statement to the UN at the Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Journalists, Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK Mission stated,
"The protection of journalists, both in conflict or in peace, is an essential tenet of any functioning society. The freedom of journalists to report unhindered and unharmed is a vital tool to help hold authority to account. It is a building block of an open society and an effective democracy."
While Prime Minister Gaston Browne continues to defy international laws, leading Antigua ever further away from the norms of acceptable behaviour, it is little wonder that individuals following in Stanford's footsteps find it an attractive location for their various enterprises.
The average tourist only sees what is displayed, beaches, colourful villages, smiling faces, the musical sounds of steel drums and the Antiguan accent.
Softened by their experience, tourists are easy prey and reliable cover for those engaged in less desirable but nevertheless lucrative activities.
Between a compliant, and often complicit, Government and a constantly expanding flow of cheerful, non-judgmental purchasers in a spending mode, for those following in Stanford's footsteps; Antigua is indeed "Antigua nice – like Paradise!"
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.