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Department of Justice United States Attorney Southern District of New York
The Silvio J. Mollo Building One Saint Andrew’s Plaza New York, New York 10007
November 20, 2013 By Hand Hon. Kevin N. Fox United States Magistrate Judge Southern District of New York United States Courthouse 500 Pearl Street New York, New York 10007 Re: United States v. Ross William Ulbricht, 13 Mag. 2328
Dear Judge Fox: The Government respectfully submits this letter in opposition to the defendant’s motion for bail. As set forth below, the defendant presents both a danger to the community and a severe flight risk. Accordingly, consistent with the recommendation of Pretrial Services, the Government seeks his detention. BACKGROUND A. Charges Against Ulbricht
On September 27, 2013, the Honorable Frank Maas, United States Magistrate Judge, signed a complaint charging Ross William Ulbricht, the defendant, in three counts. (See Ex. A (the “Complaint”)). Count One of the Complaint charges Ulbricht with conspiring to commit narcotics trafficking in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and 841(b)(1)(A); Count Two charges him with conspiring to commit computer hacking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030(b); and Count Three charges him with conspiring to commit money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h). The Complaint alleges that, from January 2011 to September 2013, Ulbricht owned and operated an underground website known as “Silk Road,” a bustling black-market bazaar where illegal drugs of every variety were sold, along with other illegal goods and services, such as malicious computer software and fake identification documents. The site featured a polished user interface that made buying these illicit items nearly as easy as ordinary online shopping. At the same time, the site sought to operate outside the reach of law enforcement, by running on a
special part of the Internet known as the “Tor” network, designed to hide users’ true IP addresses (and thereby their identities and locations), and by requiring all purchases to be made with Bitcoins, a digital currency designed to be as anonymous as cash. During its two-and-a-half years in operation, Silk Road was used by several thousand vendors to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services to well over a hundred thousand users, as well as to launder hundreds of millions of dollars from these illegal transactions. As detailed in the Complaint, Ulbricht was the leader and organizer of this vast cybercriminal enterprise. Operating under the online pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts” or “DPR” (hereafter, “DPR”), Ulbricht controlled and oversaw all aspects of Silk Road: he maintained the computer code and server infrastructure underlying the site; he decided what illegal goods and services could be bought and sold on the site; he managed a small staff of employees who assisted in the day-to-day operation of the site; and he alone controlled the massive profits generated as commissions from the illicit sales conducted through the site. The Complaint also describes how Ulbricht was willing to use violence to protect his online drug empire, commissioning multiple murders for hire in seeking to guard his interests in Silk Road. Ulbricht has been separately charged for one of these attempted murders for hire in an indictment issued by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, unsealed on October 2, 2013 (attached hereto as Ex. B). The Complaint explains how Ulbricht was identified as the Silk Road administrator known as “DPR” based on a series of telltale digital clues. (Compl. ¶¶ 33-45.) Among other things, Ulbricht posted to a discussion forum for computer programmers using the username “frosty,” seeking advice concerning an error generated by certain computer code he was developing. A modified version of that computer code was found on the Silk Road web server, which was covertly imaged during the Government’s investigation. Moreover, a login authentication key was also found on the server, containing the string “frosty@frosty,” indicating that “frosty” was the name of the only user, as well as the name of the only computer, authorized to log in to the Silk Road server directly. (Compl. ¶ 43). B. Arrest of Ulbricht and the Extensive Evidence Recovered from His Computer
Ulbricht was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) on October 1, 2013, while working on his laptop computer at a San Francisco public library. FBI agents on the scene seized the computer pursuant to a search warrant and took steps to preserve its contents. The evidence recovered from Ulbricht’s computer conclusively confirms that Ulbricht was in fact the individual who created and controlled the Silk Road website. First, Ulbricht was logged in to the Silk Road website – as “DPR” – at the time he was arrested. The webpage open on his Tor-enabled Internet browser was part of the administrative infrastructure of Silk Road, consisting of a customer-support interface listing messages from Silk Road users that had been flagged for administrative attention. (See Ex. C at 1). The previous two pages he had viewed in the browser were similarly part of the Silk Road administrative interface: one page contained a customer-support control panel from which various administrative actions could be taken (e.g. deleting listings, demoting sellers); the other page, titled “mastermind,” provided an overview of the transactions and money moving through the 2
site. (See Ex. C at 2-3). Further, in a separate window, Ulbricht had a Tor-enabled chat program open, in which Ulbricht was logged in under the username “dread,” paired with an avatar matching the avatar of “DPR” on Silk Road. (See Ex. C at 4.) Finally, the name of Ulbricht’s computer appeared in the top right-hand corner of the screen as “frosty,” (see Ex. C at 5), and a check of the name of the computer revealed that it too was named “frosty” – matching, again, the login authentication key recovered from the Silk Road web server. Forensic analysis of Ulbricht’s computer since his arrest has yielded abundant additional evidence of his operation of Silk Road. Most significantly, Ulbricht kept a journal on his computer in which he wrote about his creation and operation of Silk Road, among other things. In one entry summarizing the major events of life during the year 2010, Ulbricht explained his initial efforts to start the business, writing: I began working on a project that had been in my mind for over a year. I was calling it Underground Brokers, but eventually settled on Silk Road. The idea was to create a website where people could buy anything anonymously, with no trail whatsoever that could lead back to them. The journal entry goes on to describe how Ulbricht set up “a lab in a cabin . . . off the grid” where he “produced several kilos of high quality shrooms,” so that he would have something to sell on the website when it first opened. Ulbricht noted that he “struggl[ed] to figure out . . . how to set it up,” and that, by the end of the year, he “still didn’t have a site up, let alone a server.” However, he predicted that “[i]n 2011,” he would be “creating a year of prosperity and power beyond what I have ever experienced before,” adding: “Silk Road is going to become a phenomenon and at least one person will tell me about it, unknowing that I was its creator.” Other journal entries document Ulbricht’s launching of the Silk Road website in early 2011 and his further development of the site thereafter. Additional files from Ulbricht’s computer reflect his continued control of Silk Road up to the time of his arrest. For example, the computer contains a file titled “log,” in which Ulbricht regularly recorded his activity relating to his operation of the site during the period from March 20, 2013, to September 30, 2013, the day before his arrest. One entry, for example, notes that on May 28, 2013, he “finished rewritting [sic] silkroad.php controller.” Another entry, covering the period from June 5, 2013 to September 11, 2013, describes efforts to “develop a monitoring system for the SR infrastructure.” Another entry, dated June 2, 2013, references a joint venture with a Silk Road user, to whom he was “loaning $500k” in order to “start vending on SR.” Financial files stored on Ulbricht’s computer likewise confirm his continuous control of Silk Road from beginning to end. For example, one spreadsheet, titled “sr_accounting,” lists hundreds of expenditures relating to Silk Road, from “server rent” to “pay off hacker,” spread throughout 2010 to 2013. In another spreadsheet, titled “NetWorthCalculator,” Ulbricht listed all of his assets and liabilities, the most notable of which was an entry for “sr inc,” listed as an asset worth $104 million. Moreover, actual proceeds derived from Silk Road were found on the computer, in the form of a Bitcoin wallet containing approximately 144,000 Bitcoins, equivalent to over $20 million based on prevailing exchange rates at the time of Ulbricht’s arrest.
Ulbricht was presented in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on October 2, 2013, and consented to detention. A detention hearing was set for October 9, 2013; however, at the hearing, Ulbricht again consented to detention and to his transfer to the Southern District of New York. Ulbricht arrived in the Southern District of New York on November 5, 2013 and was presented the following day. Defense counsel consented to detention at presentment but requested the instant bail hearing. LEGAL STANDARD Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(1), if there is no condition or combination of conditions that will reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant and the safety of any other person or the community, detention is required. Because Ulbricht is charged with a drug-trafficking offense carrying a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more, a rebuttable presumption applies in this case that there are no such conditions. See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(3). DISCUSSION As discussed below, detention of Ulbricht is plainly warranted on grounds of both dangerousness and flight risk. As to dangerousness, Ulbricht trafficked in huge volumes of illegal narcotics in operating Silk Road, including heroin, cocaine, and other dangerous and illegal substances. Moreover, he repeatedly resorted to violence in seeking to protect his lucrative business, commissioning at least six murders for hire in connection with operating the site. As to flight risk, Ulbricht has a strong incentive to flee given the overwhelming evidence against him and the considerable penalties he faces. He also has demonstrated the willingness and ability to flee: he actively evaded law enforcement for years prior to his arrest; he lived under aliases; he made plans for eventual flight; he procured fake identification documents; he sought to obtain foreign citizenship; he has potential access to large stashes of digital currency; and he has significant familial ties abroad. Accordingly, without question, Ulbricht’s application should be denied. A. Dangerousness
Ulbricht ran a massive online drug empire for over two-and-a-half years. He established and grew a business that enabled thousands of drug dealers to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs to well over a hundred thousand users. Not only did the site make it easy for drug dealers to conduct sales online, but it also vastly expanded their geographic reach. Just as online stores have made it easy to obtain specialty goods and services in locations where they would otherwise be scarce, Silk Road made illegal drugs available to anyone with an Internet connection and a shipping address. The site thereby greatly diminished the barriers for users seeking to obtain drugs – including younger users seeking to try drugs for the first time. Ulbricht was content to profit from this digital expansion of the drug trade, paying little heed to the
destructive consequences caused by the addictive substances sold through his business. On this basis alone, Ulbricht should be detained. But Ulbricht also demonstrated a more sinister disregard for the lives of others in operating his online cartel. While operating Silk Road, Ulbricht commissioned no fewer than six murders for hire within a span of four months in 2013. Although it appears that none of these murders was actually carried out, Ulbricht clearly intended them to happen, and the details of the attempted murders demonstrate that Ulbricht will not hesitate to use violence in order to silence witnesses, safeguard his criminal proceeds, or otherwise protect his self-interest. 1. Murder for Hire #1
First, as alleged in the indictment filed against Ulbricht in the District of Maryland, in January 2013, Ulbricht commissioned a murder for hire from a Silk Road user claiming to be a large-scale narcotics trafficker, but who in reality was an undercover law enforcement agent (the “UC”). Specifically, on January 26, 2013, Ulbricht, through his “DPR” account on Silk Road’s private message system, told the UC that a Silk Road employee (the “Employee”) had stolen approximately $350,000 in Bitcoins from Ulbricht, by “[taking] advantage of some of the tools I gave him to do vendor support to rip a bunch of vendors off, who I will have to compensate.” At first, Ulbricht told the UC that he wanted the Employee “beat up” and “forced to send the bitcoins he stole back.” Later, however, Ulbricht told the UC he wanted to “change the order to execute rather than torture.” Ulbricht explained that the Employee had been arrested and that he “ha[d] to assume he will sing.” Ulbricht paid $80,000 for the job, wiring the money to a bank account designated by the UC – $40,000 in advance, and $40,000 after the job was purportedly done. Upon receiving staged photos from the UC of the Employee’s death, Ulbricht replied, “I’m pissed I had to kill him . . . but what’s done is done. . . . I just wish more people had some integrity.” 2. Murder for Hire #2
Next, as alleged in the Complaint, beginning on March 13, 2013, a Silk Road vendor known as “FriendlyChemist” began sending threats to Ulbricht’s “DPR” account on Silk Road’s private message system, claiming that he had a long list of actual names and addresses of Silk Road users that he intended to publish on the Internet unless Ulbricht gave him $500,000, which “FriendlyChemist” said he needed to pay off his narcotics suppliers. Subsequently, Ulbricht communicated with another user claiming to be “FriendlyChemist’s” supplier, who went by the username “redandwhite” – a well-known nickname of the Hells Angels. Ulbricht told “redandwhite” that “FriendlyChemist” was causing him trouble and that he wanted “to put a bounty on his head.” Ulbricht gave “redandwhite” what he believed to be the true name of “FriendlyChemist,” and a location for him in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada. Ulbricht and “redandwhite” agreed upon a price of 1,670 Bitcoins – approximately $150,000 – for the job, which Ulbricht transferred on March 31, 2013, to a particular Bitcoin address designated by “redandwhite.” This transfer appears on the public Bitcoin ledger known as the “Blockchain,” evidencing that the transfer was actually made. Over the next several days, “redandwhite” reported to Ulbricht that “FriendlyChemist” had been “taken care of” and provided what he
claimed to be a photograph of the victim after the job was done. Ulbricht thanked “redandwhite” for his “swift action.” As noted in the Complaint, the FBI has consulted with Canadian law enforcement authorities, who have no record of any Canadian resident with the name for “FriendlyChemist” that Ulbricht passed to “redandwhite,” nor do they have a record of a homicide occurring in White Rock, British Colombia during the relevant time frame. However, the foregoing messages between Ulbricht and “redandwhite,” and Ulbricht’s $150,000 payment to “redandwhite,” leave no doubt of his intention that the murder for hire be carried out. Moreover, evidence obtained from Ulbricht’s laptop confirm that it was in fact Ulbricht communicating as “DPR” in soliciting the murder for hire. In the “log” file on Ulbricht’s computer described above, in which Ulbricht kept a record of his actions in operating Silk Road for the period from March 20, 2013 to September 30, 2013, the following entries appear (emphasis added): 03/28/2013 being blackmailed with user info. talking with large distributor (hell's angels). 03/29/2013 commissioned hit on blackmailer with angels 04/01/2013 got word that blackmailer was excuted 04/04/2013 withdrawals all caught up made a sign error when fixing the bond refund bug, so several vendors had very negative accounts. switched to direct connect for bitcoin instead of over ssh portforward received visual confirmation of blackmailers execution 3. Murders for Hire #3 through #6
Ulbricht commissioned at least four other murders for hire beyond the two murders for hire described in the Maryland indictment and the Complaint. Like the murder for hire described in the Complaint, these other four murders for hire were also commissioned from the Silk Road user “redandwhite.” Specifically, around the same time that “redandwhite” told Ulbricht that “FriendlyChemist” had been “taken care of,” he also told Ulbricht that his workers had “questioned [‘FriendlyChemist’] and he spilled everything he knew.” “redandwhite” stated that “FriendlyChemist” had identified another individual located in Surrey, British Colombia, who had been working together with “FriendlyChemist” “on this scheme to blackmail you,” and who had been running scams on Silk Road “for a couple years.” “redandwhite” stated that this user went by the username “tony76” on Silk Road, and he also provided a purported true name for the individual (“Victim-3”).
On April 5, 2013, Ulbricht told “redandwhite,” “I would like to go after [Victim-3] . . . . If he is our man, then he likely has substantial assets to be recovered. Perhaps we can hold him and question him?” “redandwhite” responded that he would send people to “do some recon” and report back later. The following day, on April 6, 2013, “redandwhite” told Ulbricht that he had learned that Victim-3 was a drug dealer in the Surrey area who “works/lives with 3 other people and they all sell product together.” He asked Ulbricht, “Do you want to deal with this . . . guy, or do you want me to put the team on standby?” Ulbricht responded, “I am confident enough that it is him to move forward. Can we round up all 4 of them, separate them, and get them to out each other and give up their stolen money?” “redandwhite” wrote back that, “As for getting all 4, it would be possible but they would have to get them all at once so that one does not get away.” Ulbricht replied, “Ok, let’s just hit [Victim-3] and leave it at that. Try to recover the funds, but if not, then not.” Two days later, on April 8, 2013, “redandwhite” offered to “hit [Victim-3] only” for “150 [thousand] just like last time.” However, “redandwhite” cautioned that, if they only took out Victim-3 and not Victim-3’s three co-residents, they would not be able to “do [the hit] at their place because there are always at least a few of them there . . . . So we wouldn’t be able to recover any of his things.” “redandwhite” stated that he would “prefer to do all 4” in order to have a “chance of recovering any potential product/money he may have,” adding: “Anything recovered would be split 50/50 with you.” “redandwhite” quoted Ulbricht a price of “500k USD” to do “all 4.” Ulbricht responded later that day: “hmm… ok, I’ll defer to your better judgment and hope we can recover some assets from them.” Ulbricht added that he had gone ahead and sent “$500k in btc [Bitcoins] (3,000 @ $166/btc)” to a Bitcoin address designated by “readandwhite” as payment. As with Ulbricht’s prior transfer to “redandwhite,” this transfer of 3,000 Bitcoins also appears on the Blockchain, confirming that it was in fact sent. One week later, on April 15, 2013, “redandwhite” wrote to Ulbricht: “That problem was dealt with. I’ll try to catch you online [on a chat service] to give you details. Just wanted to let you know right away so you have one less thing to worry about.” Ulbricht replied: “thanks, see you on chat.” As with the preceding murder for hire Ulbricht commissioned from “redandwhite,” the FBI has consulted with Canadian authorities, who report no homicides of any individual with Victim-3’s name or otherwise matching the circumstances reflected in these communications. However, Ulbricht clearly intended for these murders to happen, as reflected, again, not only in the foregoing messages sent from “DPR’s” account on Silk Road, and the transfer of $500,000 to “redandwhite’s” Bitcoin address reflected in the Blockchain, but also in the following entries in the log file Ulbricht kept on his personal computer (emphasis added): 04/06/2013 made sure backup crons are working gave angels go ahead to find tony76 cleaned up unused libraries on server added to forbidden username list to cover I <-> l scam
04/08/2013 sent payment to angels for hit on tony76 and his 3 associates ... very high load (300/16), took site offline and refactored main and category pages to be more efficient *** In light of the foregoing, Ulbricht should be detained as a danger to the community. Given his willingness to pay approximately $730,000 for attempts to kill six people, there is no reason to believe that he would not again resort to violence in order to protect himself, whether through intimidating witnesses, recovering proceeds of his criminal activity, or otherwise. It is evident that he cannot be trusted to comply with bail conditions designed to ensure the safety of other persons and the community. Nor has he proffered any meaningful evidence rebutting the presumption that no such conditions exist. B. Risk of Flight In addition to posing a clear safety risk, Ulbricht also poses a clear flight risk. As an initial matter, Ulbricht has an enormous incentive to flee. As explained above, the proof against him is overwhelming. Through recovery of the server infrastructure underlying Silk Road, the Government has obtained extensive evidence of the breathtaking scope of the enterprise and the enormous volume of criminal transactions the business facilitated. And through recovery of Ulbricht’s own personal computer, the Government has obtained damning and conclusive evidence that Ulbricht himself established Silk Road and continuously managed its operation in the role of “DPR.” Ulbricht faces very substantial jail time for his conduct. The charges he currently faces carry a mandatory minimum of ten years’ imprisonment. Moreover, given the hundreds of kilograms of drugs moved through Silk Road, and various sentencing enhancements that apply to his conduct, the Government anticipates that Ulbricht will face a recommended sentence under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines far in excess of the mandatory minimum. His incentive to flee could not be stronger. In addition to having the incentive to flee, Ulbricht also has demonstrated that he has the willingness and ability to flee, based on a number of factors: Evasion of law enforcement. Ulbricht has spent the past two-and-a-half years continuously evading law enforcement. He used sophisticated technological methods to hide his identity and location while running his criminal enterprise, all the while knowing that law enforcement was seeking to identify and locate him. Even in his “real life,” he sought to keep a low profile, renting out rooms found through Craigslist and using aliases among those living with him. As noted in the Complaint, his housemates at one location in San Francisco knew him by the fake name “Josh.”
Given this history, there is every reason to believe that Ulbricht would seek to evade law enforcement again if given the chance. Plans for life on the run. Evidence from Ulbricht’s computer also reflects that he had contemplated and prepared for a life on the run. For example, one file found on the computer, labeled “emergency,” contains a list of apparent to-do items in the event that Ulbricht learned that law enforcement was closing in on him. It reads as follows: encrypt and backup important files on laptop to memory stick. destroy laptop hard drive and hide/dispose destroy phone and hide/dispose Hide memory stick get new laptop go to end of train find place to live on craigslist for cash create new identity (name, backstory) Efforts to obtain foreign citizenship. Other files from Ulbricht’s laptop show that he had researched possibilities for relocating abroad and had even taken concrete steps toward doing so. For example, the computer contained reference guides concerning the requirements for obtaining “economic citizenship” in several Caribbean countries. In particular, the computer contained an application completed by Ulbricht for citizenship in Dominica, along with reference materials explaining that Dominica’s “economic citizenship” program offers “instant” citizenship in exchange for a onetime “$75,000 donation” to the country’s government. (See Ex. D). Ulbricht is also known to have traveled to Dominica in late 2012 – a fact that he notably failed to disclose to Pretrial. Access to false identification documents. Ulbricht is also intimately familiar with how to obtain fake identifications through the online underground. Silk Road itself had a “forgeries” section where fake identification documents were offered for sale, and Ulbricht availed himself of these services. As described in the Complaint, in July 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents intercepted a package containing nine fake driver’s licenses bearing Ulbricht’s image, sent to the San Francisco residence where he was staying at the time. The identifications, which are high quality forgeries, depict Ulbricht with different names and in different guises – some with beard, some without – and include licenses from six different states and three different countries (Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia). (See Ex. E). Access to digital currency and offshore accounts. Ulbricht also has the financial wherewithal to flee. As described in the Complaint, through his operation of Silk Road, he amassed over 600,000 Bitcoins in commissions from Silk Road sales, an enormous number of Bitcoins, equivalent to approximately $420 million at current exchange rates. Although Ulbricht spent a substantial portion of his Bitcoins in operating Silk Road, and the FBI has seized approximately 144,000 of Ulbricht’s Bitcoins from his computer, there could very well be additional large stashes of 9
Bitcoins that Ulbricht stored elsewhere and that the FBI has yet to locate. Being digital currency, Bitcoins can be stored in any fashion that a computer file can be stored – on a thumb drive in a safe deposit box, for example, or even on the Internet, in “cloud” storage. Ulbricht could thus easily retrieve any Bitcoins he has secreted away were he to be released. Further, Ulbricht’s computer was also found to contain reference materials for setting up offshore bank accounts, indicating that Ulbricht also may have access to bank accounts held abroad. Foreign ties. Finally, Ulbricht has significant ties abroad. His parents own property and hold bank accounts in Costa Rica, and they live there for half the year. His sister resides in Australia. He also has undertaken recent foreign travel – living in Australia and traveling in Southeast Asia from November 2011 to April 2012, traveling to Costa Rica from May to June 2012, and, as noted above, traveling to Dominica in late 2012. *** In short, Ulbricht has every incentive to flee and is well positioned to do so. Nor is the flight risk he poses significantly mitigated by the letters of support from friends and family included with his bail application. These supporters appear only to know one side of Ulbricht, as he has gone to great lengths to keep his criminal alter ego a secret. In spending the past two-anda-half years evading law enforcement, he has maintained one persona in his “real life,” while maintaining a different, darker persona online. Indeed, in one of his communications with the undercover agent involved in the first murder for hire described above, Ulbricht and the agent had the following, telling exchange concerning Ulbricht’s concealment of his criminal livelihood from his then girlfriend: UC: Ulbricht: Ulbricht: UC: does she know who you are? Dread I mean no way maybe never how can you hide that from her? i have to guess that [you are] spending at least 10 to 12 hours a day on SR I've become good at hiding
Ulbricht is thus well practiced at living a double life. Indeed, even with respect to his role as “DPR” on Silk Road, Ulbricht concealed the more nefarious aspects of his criminal conduct from the users of the site. While portraying himself as a champion of “freedom” on the Silk Road website, opposed to the use of any kind of “force” against others, he was in fact a quite ruthless criminal – one who, with seeming ease and lack of conscience, nonchalantly ordered murders for hire amidst fixing server bugs and answering customer support tickets. Given his demonstrated penchant for deception, there is simply no reason to believe that any
sureties offered by the defense could exercise sufficient moral suasion on Ulbricht to prevent him from fleeing. CONCLUSION For the reasons set forth above, there is no condition or combination of conditions that will reasonably assure Ulbricht’s future appearance and the safety of the community. Accordingly, Ulbricht’s bail application should be denied. Respectfully, PREET BHARARA United States Attorney
By: ______________________________ Serrin Turner Assistant United States Attorney Southern District of New York (212) 637-1946 cc: Encl. Joshua Dratel, Esq.
Commonwealth of Dominica Economic Citizenship Program
Guide of Reference 2011
© 2011 ISLA Associates Ltd.
While being a citizen of one country, you may have the need to acquire a citizenship and passport of another country. An alternative citizenship and passport of a decent country with good international reputation may bring you a number of advantages, such as: ●● easy travel to certain first world countries with no visa requirements; ●● more personal safety when traveling to specific countries; ●● insurance for you and your family against unexpected personal, political or economical strife; ●● better choice of places to live; ●● good business instrument for expansion of your investment and entrepreneurial abilities; ●● improvement of your taxation regime; ●● asset and privacy protection. Most countries have in place the according laws for regulation of granting citizenship to aliens. You can normally qualify for citizenship of another country on the grounds of birth on its territory, marriage, lineage or religious affiliation. If none is the case, there is an option of naturalization. The latter normally requires several years of permanent residence in a given country, 3 to 10 years, plus to character and some other requirements. However, there exist quicker options. Some countries maintain economic citizenship programs granting citizenship to foreign investors and their families for a significant contribution to the country’s economy. They also call it citizenship-through-investment programs. Economic citizenship programs are instant in their character, since the investor is being granted citizenship with no requirements of permanent residence in the country during a certain period. At the present moment, there are only three countries in the world providing for legal economic citizenship programs. Those are the Commonwealth of Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Austria. Current terms and conditions of the citizenship program run by the Dominican Government make it virtually the best option comparing to other countries.
Introduction to Dominica
The Commonwealth of Dominica (to be distinguished from the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic), known as “the Nature Island of the Caribbean”, is a green tropical paradise, one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. It lies between the French overseas territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique and is famous for its practically untouched nature – green mountains, countless rivers and waterfalls. It has one of the highest rates in the Caribbean in a NatGeo islands survey. In 1998 Dominica’s Morne Trois Pitons National Park was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In 1997 Dominica became the first Caribbean country to participate in the work of Green Globe in order to make Dominica a model ecotourism destination. The area of about 300 square miles (750 sq km) is a home to approximately 70,000 people mainly of African descent, few indigenous Carib population - last in the Caribbean, and recently increasing white and Chinese population. About 20,000 of them live in Roseau, the capital. In 1978 Dominica was granted independence by the United Kingdom. It is an independent state with parliamentary democracy and efficient judiciary system based on English common law. President is the Head of the State, with Prime Minister being the Head of the Government. English is the official language. French dialect (Creole) is widely spoken. The currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD or EC$), which is very stable and has an exchange rate of EC$ 2.70 for US$ 1.00. Dominica is a member of CARICOM, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Commonwealth of Nations, United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Organization of American States (OAS). The country maintains missions in Washington, New York, London, and Brussels and is represented jointly with other Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) members in Canada.
Benefits of passport of the Commonwealth of Dominica
Dominica recognizes dual citizenship, and you are not required to renounce your other citizenships. Besides that, Dominica does not notify authorities of your country of residence or citizenship on your Dominican citizenship. You are not required to reside in Dominica to keep your citizen’s status.
It’s safe for traveling. The country has a good international image and being a Dominican is excluding a number of possible travel problems by definition. Dominican passport allows free international travel to more than 100 countries and territories where no visa required at all, or you easily get a visa upon arrival. The list includes United Kingdom, Hong Kong, South Korea, China, Singapore and most British Commonwealth countries. And for those countries where a visa is still required, you normally can obtain it with minimum formalities within a couple of days. You can also extend your visa-free access by obtaining a residence permit in an appropriate country. For example, if you obtain a residence permit in Canada, you will be able to travel to the United States, same as a residence permit of one of the Schengen states gives you a visa-free access to any European country. Being a Commonwealth citizen, you can count on certain privileges in the United Kingdom to study and work after graduation. As Dominica is a member of CARICOM, you enjoy privileges in all CARICOM countries as to working and employment. You get virtually the same rights as if you were born in Dominica, i.e. you can vote, purchase property, come, live and work in Dominica, if you wish. You enjoy a tax-free status on foreign income, capital gains, gift, wealth and inheritance tax. Your worldwide income is liable to taxation in Dominica only if you reside in there. You are granted citizenship for life and it’s not revocable. Issued passports are valid for 10 years. Passports for children under 16 years old are being issued for 5 years. Expired passports or those with no free visa pages left can be easily renewed for a small fee at the immigration and passport office in Dominica or at any Dominican consulate. The promoting agency will assist you to renew your passports with no need to personally travel to Dominica or its consulates. Dominican citizenship is the most affordable option and the one quicker to obtain. It requires a US$ 75,000 donation for a single option and US$ 100,000 for a family option, and normally takes 2-5 months. By way of comparison, St. Kitts and Nevis program requires a minimum of US$ 200,000 in donation (single option) or US$ 350,000 in investments and takes 3-10 months to accomplish. Austria has much more substantial financial expectations from its investors. There is no statutory minimum, but US$ 4 millions would be reasonable, plus significant achievements are to be brought along with the investments. With the Dominica program, you don’t need to make a monetary donation in advance. You place the funds designated for donation on the governmental escrow bank account and until the application is approved, they are not released to the Government.
Economic citizenship program of the Commonwealth of Dominica is one of only three currently existing official programs of that kind in the world. The other two programs are run by St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean and Austria in Europe. Dominica’s citizenship program is based on the Chapter VII, Section 101 of the Constitution, stipulated that citizenship can be granted under the Naturalization, and Citizenship Act, stipulated that persons who had been continuously resident in Dominica for five (5) years could apply for naturalization and may be eligible for citizenship on payment of prescribed fees. Amendment to the Citizenship Act in 1993 introduced a concept of Economic Citizenship and waived a residency requirement for investors making an investment in the amount and form stipulated by the Government.
The Government of Dominica requires a cash investment in the form of donation to the Government. There are two options: Single and Family.
Under Family option, investor is to make a donation of US$ 100,000. This investment qualifies a family of four members: the main applicant, spouse and two children under eighteen (18).
An additional US$ 15,000 is required for each of the two children who turned 18 but has yet to become 21. An additional contribution of US$ 25,000 is required for every other child under twenty-one (21). Any person in the family over twenty-one (21) is required to apply separately under Single option.
Investor under Single option, whether single or married, is to make a donation of US$ 75,000.
●● investors must be over 21 years of age; ●● all applicants must have no criminal records; ●● application must be on the prescribed form and all necessary supporting documentation must be provided; ●● the investor shall deposit the stipulated investment amount into the designated governmental account at the National Commercial Bank of Dominica. This amount shall not be withdrawn from the account unless the application is withdrawn, rejected or approved (in either of the first two cases the applicant will be refunded); ●● the applicant (or the main applicant in case of Family option) is to travel to Dominica for a personal interview with a government appointed committee or committee members. It is also possible to arrange an interview in your country of residence for an extra fee. ●● processing of applications for economic citizenship can take at least eight (8) weeks; ●● all applicants for economic citizenship must have a licensed local promoting agent.
Agent processing fees are US$ 15,000 for a single applicant and US$ 25,000 for a family unit. Fees for due diligence check by a detective agency normally vary from US$ 3,000 to US$ 10,000. Government registration fees are: government application fee US$ 1,000 (per application), naturalization fee US$ 550 (per applicant), government processing fee US$ 200 (per applicant), stamp fee US$ 15 (per applicant).
Step 1. Preparation of Applications
Once you are ready to proceed, we issue an invoice for agent processing fees associated with your participation in the economic citizenship program. Once the invoice is paid, we commence the procedure. We assist you on every step as you move forward through completion of applications, preparation of personal documents and further procedures up to the moment you are granted citizen’s status and have your new passport. Please familiarize yourself with the list of the documents you are to prepare. You’ll find it further in this document. www.isla-offshore.com
Step 2. Due Diligence Investigation
We contact the international detective agency approved by the Government of Dominica for the conduct of due diligence investigations. The agency estimates the cost of the investigation for your case and issues the according invoice to be paid to proceed further. These fees are not refundable and vary from case to case. Background investigation is normally a time-consuming process, and the needed time depends on your particular circumstances (for example, how many countries are involved in verification procedure, etc.).
Step 3. Investment Deposits
When the results of your due-diligence check are ready, your application is to be carefully considered by the Financial Services Unit. Upon receipt of a comfort letter from the Minister of Finance and Social Security in this regard, you are to deposit the stipulated investment amount to a special governmental Citizenship account (US$ 75,000 under Single option, US$ 100,000 or more if you have more children, under Family option). The Government will not transfer the deposited investment funds from this account for further use, until naturalization certificates have been issued to you and your family. In case the application is withdrawn or rejected, you will be refunded for the total amount of deposit (net of bank charges and exchange rate differential) within one (1) month of the rejection or withdrawal of the application.
Step 4. Interview
At about the same time, we arrange for you an interview by a government-appointed committee or committee members. The interview is mandatory and cannot be waived. It is normally conducted in Dominica. There is an option, however, to arrange for an interview outside of Dominica. An extra fee of US$ 3,000 should be paid plus full airfare, hotel accommodation and per diem for 3 members of the committee. The interview is conducted in English, so you are expected to have a basic knowledge of the language and be able to verbally communicate in English. However, there are translators approved by the Government available to assist you in case you are not fluent with the language. The interview can be arranged not earlier than in one week after all documents are submitted and approved by the Government. It is normal to wait for up to one (1) month for the results of the interview. The application then is forwarded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Labour responsible for granting the economic citizenship.
Step 5. Taking of Oath, Certificates of Naturalization and Procurement of Passports
At the time you arrive for the interview, we arrange for you to sign an Oath of Allegiance before a Notary Public (Justice of Peace, or Commissioner of Oaths). Parents sign the Oath on behalf of the minor children (0-16). At this stage, a Certificate of Naturalization is issued in the name of each applicant. We then can apply for your passports. As soon as the passports are ready, we forward you the Certificates of Naturalization and passports by courier mail or as otherwise agreed with you.
Time necessary to obtain Dominican citizenship and passport
The law provides for the process time of two (2) months. The effective time needed for the whole procedure varies from case to case. You should be aware that a significant part of the time is needed for due diligence agency vetting procedures and depends on your particular circumstances.
Costs and Expenses
The effective costs of obtaining Dominican citizenship and passport may vary from case to case. To get a preliminary quotation, please contact us.
Documents Required for Application
1. Application Form 12 must be completed in duplicate for all persons applying for Dominican citizenship, children included. A parent or legal guardian of applicants under eighteen (18) years of age must sign the application Form 12 on behalf of the minor. All Form 12s must be notarized to be complete. Reproductions of the Form 12 are accepted. The section of Form 12 labeled “REFERENCE” can be left undone. 2. Two (2) original personal references (Not Professional References) for the investor, spouse and any child over 18 years old. Testimonials should include a paragraph about the referee, who must be acquainted with the applicant for at least five (5) years. Identical testimonials will not be accepted. Also testimonials should not be from family members. An original letter of recommendation from the Principal/Dean of the school or university for children between 12 and 18 years old. 3. One (1) original Professional reference for the investor. References should be from person who has been acquainted with the investor’s work for at least three (3) years. 4. One (1) original recommendation from the investor’s banker (Not a certificate of Deposit/ Bank Statement). The investor must be a client of the bank for at least two (2) years. The recommendation should contain the contact information for the bank. Unsigned bank recommendations will not be accepted. 5. Original Letter of Employment for the investor. If self-employed most recent audited financial statement of the business. 6. Original affidavit by investor stating source of funds. 7. Marriage certificate where applicable. If an applicant is divorced and has remarried then a notarized copy of the Dissolution of the Marriage is required. 8. A letter of application addressed to the Honourable Minister responsible for Citizenship requesting citizenship is required of the investor or the head of the family applying for citizenship stating the reason(s) for applying for economic citizenship. 9. Original Police clearance certificate or a similar document provided by a law enforcement agency confirming the absence of a criminal record is required of all applicants sixteen (16) years and over. Police records are required from country of birth, citizenship and residence (where the applicant has lived for six (6) months or more) if different. Police records are required from a County/State and at Federal Level. All police records must be accompanied by a set of fingerprints. For children twelve to fifteen (12-15), sworn affidavit by parent that child does not have criminal record. 10. Four certified passport size photos. On the reverse side of each photo a notary public should endorse the following statement: “I certify that is a true likeness of the applicant ______________”. 11. Birth certificate for all applicants (please prepare 2 certified copies of each birth certificate).
12. Notarized copies of University/College diplomas. 13. Completed medical form for all applicants. Applicants between the ages of 0-5 years will not be required to take an HIV test. 14. A detailed resume/business background report is required of all applicants who are working adults. The occupation of all working adults must be clearly indicated. 15. Completed Disclosure Form for all applicants over 16 years old. 16. Statutory declaration attesting that the information submitted in the application package is correct. If the applicant is experiencing difficulties in obtaining a statutory declaration, the document may be processed in Dominica. 17. Any other document deemed necessary by the Minister. Documents should not be pre-date the submission of the application to the Dominican authorities by more than three (3) months.
How to Initiate the Process
Should you require more information or be ready to proceed with obtaining citizenship of the Commonwealth of Dominica, please contact us:
Offshore Advisor / ISLA Associates Ltd.
8 Copthall Roseau Valley Commonwealth of Dominica P.O. Box 458 Tel.: +1 (347) 252 3855 ( Tel.: +1 (767) 442 1375 ( Skype calls: USA International ) Dominica Local )
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