Habila Malgwi is the Regional Head of East and West Africa at Arton Capital, a global financial firm that empowers individuals and families to become Global Citizens by investing in second residency and citizenship around the world. During his exclusive interview with Emmanuel Okogba, Mr. Malgwi elaborates on Arton Capital’s influence in bringing in foreign direct investment to countries, the Citizenship by Investment industry, and how Nigerian citizens have the opportunity to access many parts of the world without needing entry visas.  

Habila Malgwi

Tell us more about Arton Capital’s global operations?

Arton Capital is a global financial firm which specializes in Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIPs). We are also a trusted advisor to seven governments and have successfully created these CIPs in few places as a means of bringing in foreign direct investment. Today, Arton’s global operations are spread in over 15 offices around the world and have helped attract over US $3 billion foreign direct investment to countries, with 12 different CIPs available for investors.

Why are CIPs important and how has the industry changed over the years?

Although CIPs have been around for a while; Arton Capital has been able to revamp and redefine the entire process through bespoke services and a dedicated global team. The concept behind CIPs began when we understood that governments are in desperate need of foreign direct investments without having to rely on banks like the IMF. Economies are crashing, natural resources are diminishing, and a solution was needed. We also found that many individuals are having issues accessing different parts of the world – whether for mobility reasons, safety concerns, trying to access higher standards of living, health care systems, or education, and even for business opportunities. When we saw a clear gap between the government needing money and individuals needing a better quality of life, CIPs became the most efficient solution to finally bridge that gap. This way, the government can earn money through individuals’ investment and in return, these individuals can gain credible passports which allow them the freedom of mobility and the access to a better life for themselves, their business, and their families. It’s a win-win for the citizens of the nation as well, because as the government attracts more FDI, the funds are used to increase infrastructure and create more jobs.

Does acquiring passports through CIPs give the same rights as current citizens?

Absolutely. If you make a significant contribution to the economy of Cyprus as a result of which you are granted the privilege of becoming a holder of their passport, you officially become a Cypriot and have the same rights and obligations as every other citizen of Cyprus, and are entitled to every benefit that comes with it, whether it is freedom of mobility, or to work and live anywhere in Europe.

How many governments and countries does Arton Capital advise?

We are currently agents of over a dozen governments and are official trusted advisors for seven of them, and as of now, we offer CIPs in 12 countries: Cyprus, Portugal, Bulgaria, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, the EB5 in the United States, the Quebec program in Canada, and the United Kingdom. At the moment, we are advising the Government of Anguilla and are also kicking off with Montenegro, which is getting a lot of traction right now.

Is there potential for some more A-list countries in the EU to join as well?

There is potential everywhere, however our primary goal, and this is what differentiates us, is to find the best nations that will offer access to an improved quality of life but also the economies where the implementation of such programs will have a significant impact. Our Intelligent team works diligently to ensure that the nations that we select provide opportunities to our investors, and vice versa. In order to sign with a country, we must be able to see that there is investor interest in those jurisdictions, and also that those countries are in need of these investments and resources.

What is the typical process for these programmes?

The process for each program varies in length of approval, investment amount, and qualifications. Typically, an investor needs to have a minimum annual income of $100,000 or above 100,000 Euros, depending on the jurisdiction, or a Net-worth of 3 or 5M dollars or euros depending on the requirement of the program an individual is going for but that is the easiest part of our approval procedure. Our due diligence process is very strict, and we are keen on accepting individuals with the highest and most appropriate merit and reputation.The CIP industry may be targeted by individuals with improper intentions with their money and this is why due diligence and background verification processes are paramount. In order to accept a client, we run stringent KYC procedures to ensure that candidates pre-qualify and successfully pass our compliance checks before being subjected to the respective program’s checks. We also perform a financial check. Once approved, our team prepares a meticulous file for the client, to lodge it to the government. From there, it takes at least three months for the government to launch an additional due diligence on the client. Once that report is approved, the client pays the required investment amount, and their journey as a global citizen begins.

How does the low Visa-Free Score (VFS) of the Nigerian passport affect its citizens?

Today, a Nigerian passport holder can travel visa-free to only 48 countries, ranking in 178th place. For this reason, I truly believe that both Nigeria as a nation, and the Nigerian people are not able to maximize their full potential because of this limited global freedom. Small countries in the Caribbean can have access to Schengen and Europe and are able to advance because their citizens have access to better opportunities for their business and a lifestyle abroad. I would say it’s hurting our economy as well, because there is just no way to sell Nigeria as a country using its low-ranking passport, even though there are important resources like oil. Enhancing the passport will bring more sustainability, investment, and growth to the nation and empower its presence on a global scale.

What could be done for a country like Nigeria to increase their passport ranking?

Arton Capital has been able to consult several countries who have been in similar situations and we stood as their facilitator in making bilateral agreements with foreign ministries. If Nigeria is interested in increasing their passport ranking and providing its citizens more opportunities for growth and in turn help the Nigerian economy, we have the proper network and resources to help make that happen.

What is the typical time line for acquiring a passport?

Again, depending on the country but typically in the Caribbean we are looking at 4 to 6 months if there is no extra requirement demanded by the approving unit in the country, 6 to 8 months in Cyprus depending on the file or individuals profile if they need extra source of wealth confirmation and it goes on; could be 12 or more month in the US and Canada etc.

Is the Nigerian market of interest for Arton Capital’s network?

Arton Capital is the largest in the industry worldwide, highly reputed for our professionalism and our credibility, and we also pride ourselves in being able to find and cater to nations we believe need our services the most. As one of the biggest markets in Africa, investors from Nigeria are perfect candidates for our CIPs and would highly benefit from a second passport that provides increased global mobility. Our focus in Nigeria, is not about providing investors the opportunity to relocate—it is about providing them easy access to a world of opportunities. This is a major bonus for HNI/UHNI in Nigeria who do business abroad and wastes time applying and waiting for a visa, not knowing whether or not it would even be approved. By giving these investors a golden ticket to the rest of the world, we are paving a road for both individual and national success.  In order to find which passport best suits the investor’s needs they can use our online tool, The Passport Index, and check the visa-free country list for every passport. You’ll be shocked to see that a small island nation like Grenada can visit 128 countries, including China, without a visa. So, these are some of the concepts we try to educate people about.

 What has been your success marker so far?

To date, we have been able to successfully assist over 20 Nigerian families become global citizens. And I tell you 20 because the process is quite complicated, and although we receive many more files every single day, we have gotten few rejections due to insincere applicants. However, I will still claim that our success rate is 100 %, because every applicant that has provided us with honest and credible information has been accepted.

As a company, we try to mitigate those risks of rejection by imposing many different stages of compliance check. We are on a mission to empower global citizenship and this starts by advocating best practices and embracing our responsibilities as an industry leader.

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