British Virgin Islands Business News

The analysis of the latest events in BVI and worldwide, affecting BVI business environment; facts and statistics on BVI International Business Companies involved in global business activities.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Digicel Announced the Appointment of New CEO


Digicel British Virgin Islands announced the appointment of the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Kevin Smith, who performed the duties of Commercial and Operations Director for Digicel from 2013 to 2015, as well as worked as Managing Director of New Direction Business Consulting and held other senior posts at the BVI Post Office and Citco BVI Limited, came back to continue his work in the mobile operator.

Smith has 25 years of experience in commercial and management positions across government and non-government organisations in the British Virgin Islands. His recent role was Chief Operating Officer of the Telecoms Regulatory Commission in July 2018. 

Digicel’s Group CEO Jean-Yves Charlier congratulated Smith on his appointment to lead Digicel BVI having said in his comments: “Along with his strong grasp of the Digicel DNA based on his previous experience with us, he brings the right mix of commercial and customer understanding coupled with a deep passion for technology and development which can only be of benefit to our customers in the BVI.”

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

BVI Invest Agency to be Created in the British Virgin Islands


Junior Minister for Trade and Economic Development announced the launch of an investment promotions agency, which will work to attract foreign investment to the BVI territory. The agency called BVI Invest will be included in the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (CAIPA), a network of similar governmental departments across the region.

The establishment of the new agency was announced during a 5-day course held in the British Virgin Islands to train regional governments on methodologies for investment project formulation and appraisal, technical assistance, networking and making use of investment practices. The course was held in co-operation with CAIPA and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, and is focused on international accepted methodologies. 

Also, Minister was talking about the BVI efforts to diversify and digitise its economy and the need for investment in human resources. She said that the software would help the BVI to compute financial statements needed to appraise investment projects and their possible economic benefit to the BVI territory.

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Saturday, November 09, 2019

Premier Commented on the Impact of HK Protests on BVI Financial Services Industry


BVI Premier Andrew Fahie stated that the BVI financial services industry have had a minimal impact from the recent political protests in Hong Kong; answering the question from the Opposition in the House of Assembly, he stated that neither the financial industry itself nor the British Virgin Islands as a jurisdiction of choice were influenced significantly, due to the fact that most protests are announced ahead so that authorities and media know the potential obstacles in advance.

According to Premier, economic losses following those protests are minimal. Regarding BVI House Asia set up in HK with the purpose to promote jurisdiction’s financial services, he said that “most business entities in the financial sector have continued as usual, including BVI House Asia.” He acknowledged that the protests have created practical inconveniences locally for those working in the branch offices of BVI law firms and other corporate service providers, however, the government’s strategy will continue to be constant monitoring of the situation and any significant changes in the financial situation that could influence the usage of BVI financial services. The BVI House Asia is providing weekly updates on the situation to the International Affairs Secretariat, the Premier’s Office and BVI Finance.

China, Hong Kong and Macau invest more than 40 per cent of the US$1.5 trillion going through approximately 400,000 BVI-registered companies.

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Friday, November 01, 2019

Final Economic Substance Requirements Issued by BVI International Tax Authority


The BVI International Tax Authority has finalized the regime of new economic substance rules. The new rules, effective from the beginning of 2019, are included in the Economic Substance (Companies and Limited Partnership) Act, 2018.

According to the new requirements, which are effective in the large part of the European Union, and which have been supported by OECD BEPS Inclusive Framework members, the companies tax resident in a low or no tax jurisdiction and engaged in key activities identified by the EU, in order to access the tax regimes of the territory are obliged to meet minimum substance requirements as part of their annual tax return

In some business sectors, activities generating income must be primarily conducted with qualified employees and operating expenditure in the jurisdiction. Among the main activities identified by the European Commission Code of Conduct Group there are banking, insurance, financing and leasing, fund management, shipping, intellectual property, and holding companies whose income is generated from any of the above activities.

For each of the core activities standards vary to reflect the different needs of the companies involved, and are to ensure that there are sufficient activities undertaken in the relevant jurisdiction to reflect the amount of profits accounted there. The substance requirements will include being able to demonstrate that the company is directed and managed from the relevant jurisdiction, has physical office and sufficient level of employees and annual expenditure.

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Friday, October 18, 2019

Bank of Asia (BVI) Started Full Online Operations


Bank of Asia (BVI) Limited started full operations in September 2019, and is actively accepting clients. Its customers can complete the account application procedure online through their website. Now customers can establish their accounts by following instructions, and even upload certified documents 24/7. Banking services are provided online through digital platform.

Bank of Asia is one of the first fully digital global banks and the first bank in BVI to be licensed in more than 20 years. It has built its platform with the latest technologies, reducing transaction time and expense. The bank focuses of various types of deposits, including saving deposits, current deposits, time deposits, and remittance services. Prepaid cards and debit cards are expected to be introduced by the Bank. 

Chairman and Founder of Bank of Asia commented: “FinTech is the future. The British Virgin Islands, which is the world’s leading offshore jurisdiction, is home to Bank of Asia. We are proud to be the first bank to be licensed by the BVI in more than two decades and we are offering smart financial and lifestyle services to customers using innovative technology, products and better customer service globally.”

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Cabinet Approved Establishment of Borrowing Committee


The BVI Cabinet approved the establishment of Borrowing Committee consisting of eight members and chaired by the Financial Secretary, to secure all funding under the UK Loan Guarantee on behalf of the government. In the last Cabinet post-meeting statement it was said: “The Borrowing Committee will be the sole entity authorised by the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance to source and negotiate loans under the ‘Guarantee’, pursuant to the implementation of the revised Recovery to Development Plan.”

The newly established Committee will review the terms and conditions of loans offered by lending institutions to government, and the borrowing presented by the Minister of Finance Andrew Fahie. The panel will recommend to the Finance Minister all amendments to the loans offered under the Guarantee as well as other borrowings falling under specified stipulations; they will also recommend the most appropriate loans to the Cabinet

The Borrowing Committee will be mainly guided by the Virgin Islands Public Finance Management Act and is expected to include the Financial Secretary as Chairman, Permanent Secretary in the Premier’s Office, the Attorney General, a nominee by the Opposition Leader, a nominee representing the Business Community, an External Regional Leader, a representative from the BVI Banking Association and a Secretary from the Premier’s Office.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

BVI Financial Management Agreement with UK Considered to be Amended


BVI Premier Andrew Fahie said that it is possible that borrowing restrictions placed on the territory in the Protocols for Effective Financial Management agreement between the BVI and the UK could be waived in case the BVI territory suffers from major natural disaster or catastrophe. The financial agreement, which was signed in 2012 and is currently in force, prohibits the BVI government from borrowing more than 80 per cent of its recurring revenue, but the UK is prepared to consider this through a “natural disaster clause”.

Andrew Fahie noted that making provisions in the agreement for disasters was one of of the things the BVI wanted to discuss, during recent negotiations with the UK about its loan guarantee offer. The Premier commented on the raised concerns: “The UK government stated to us that it is prepared to consider including a reference to natural disasters and catastrophic events in the debt section of the Protocols for Effective Financial Management.” 

In his speech addressing members of the media, Premier Fahie said that, based on the territory’s geographical location, the BVI is not only susceptible to hurricanes, but also to other disasters such as earthquakes, and in case they impact the territory to a high degree, the BVI might need to borrow extensively to rebuild, like in case of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

BVI and Seychelles Sign Multilateral Competent Authorities Agreement


According to the new update by OECD, the British Virgin Islands and Seychelles have signed up to the Multilateral Competent Authorities Agreement (MCAA) on country-by-country reporting. The BVI signed up to the pact on July 7, 2019, and Seychelles joined the agreement two days later. 

Country-by-country (CbC) reporting is a standard which requires the disclosure by large multinational groups of some basic items of financial data, usually in each country where the parent is located. Collected information includes the amount of revenue reported, profit before income tax, and income tax paid and accrued, as well as the stated capital, accumulated earnings, number of employees, and tangible assets. The OECD developed the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on the Exchange of CbC Reports, enabling their automatic exchange.

According to the OECD's update in the end of August 2019, a total of 82 territories have now signed up to automatically exchange CbC reports.

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Friday, September 06, 2019

BVI Premier Responded to Letter by Director of UK OTs


BVI Premier Andrew Fahie has denied claims by Ben Merrick, the Director of British Overseas Territories, that his government caused deterioration of engagements between the UK and the BVI territory.

The UK official representative expressed his disappointment about the administration of Fahie’s government after cancellation of some important meetings, including that with UK minister responsible for Overseas Territories, Lord Tariq Ahmad. In response to the letter which was addressed to the Premier and became public, the Premier confirmed that he and his government have consistently been in contact with the United Kingdom. Fahie also said he believes Merrick’s letter of ‘untrue accusations’ had a purpose to damage his reputation as Premier.

The Premier further said that he and local delegation had met with Lord Ahmad in the Cayman Islands in June 2019, and discussed different areas that they’ve been working on. He noted that they had made it clear to the UK after being elected that the Fahie administration was a new government that needed to do research to ensure it was fully knowledgeable about the loan guarantee, and said that they needed some time to do that.

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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Harneys Offshore Law Firm Recognised as Leader in Private Wealth Market


BVI offshore law firm Harneys has become a leader in the private wealth market for the third consecutive year, being recently ranked in the 2019 Chambers High Net Worth (HNW) Guide. The British Virgin Islands team remained the sole firm recognised in the Band 1 ranking for offshore trusts, and the Cayman Islands team remained with its Band 2 ranking.

Partner Henry Mander, who is leading the trusts teams within the Private Wealth department, said in his comments: “Harneys has an outstanding reputation for its private wealth work in the BVI; our ranking and the quality of our client base is testament to our success.”

Harneys’ trusts practice offers advice to individual and commercial clients on the establishment, administration and structuring of all types of BVI, Cayman Islands and Cyprus trusts. The company provides wealth management solutions to a wide range of clients from different countries.

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Saturday, June 22, 2019

New Volume of Statistical Bulletin Published by the Commission


The BVI Financial Services Commission has issued the fifty-fourth volume of its Statistical Quarterly Bulletin, providing information about the financial services activities in the jurisdiction in the first quarter of 2019.

According to the Registry of Corporate Affairs, 7,214 new companies were incorporated in BVI in the first quarter of the year, which is 19.09% decrease compared to 8,916 in the fourth quarter of 2018 and 26.37% decrease compared to 9,798 in the first quarter of 2018. Total cumulative number of registered BCs as at 31 March 2019 was 408,838. Also, in the first quarter of 2019 there were 12 new Private Trust Companies, 1 Segregated Portfolio Company, 1 Foreign Company registered, along with 80 continuations. 

There were 56 new Limited Partnerships (LPs) formed in Q1 2019, which is a 80.65% increase when compared to 31 formed Q1 2018, and a 51.35% increase in the number of LPs formed in Q1 2019 when compared to 37 LPs formed in Q4 2018. Total cumulative number of active Limited Partnerships was 977 as at 31st March 2019.

In the first quarter of 2019, there were 57 new applications to register new Trade Mark, which is an increase by 21.28% when compared to Q1 2018, and a decrease by 1.72% when compared to Q4 2018. According to Banking, Insolvency and Fiduciary Services statistics, there were 6 new General Banking Licences and 1 Restricted Class 1 Banking Licence issued in the first quarter of 2019. The banking sector’s total asset size in this quarter at approximately US$2.43 billion is comparable to Q4 2018’s performance of US$2.37 billion. 

International Cooperation statistics records the number of incoming and outgoing requests for information, classified as formal or informal. In the first quarter of 2019, there were 15 formal and 5 informal incoming and no outgoing requests. Further information and statistics is available at the website of the Financial Services Commission.

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Saturday, June 08, 2019

New Media Release on Financial Services Business Issued by BVI Finance


BVI Finance has reported the considerable increase in the quantity and quality of business in the financial services sector of the territory in 2018. Besides the highest level of overall new incorporations in three years, there was an increase in the number of higher-end limited partnerships; BVI keeps its leading position in mergers and acquisitions, public listings, and innovative areas such as Initial Coin Offerings.

Chief Executive Officer of BVI Finance Elise Donovan stated in the media release: “More than 400,000 organisations recognise that our strong legal system, business-friendly laws and world-class corporate services sector means we are an indispensable hub for global trade… We are delighted to see that 2018 was a strong year for incorporations as more businesses and individuals chose to take advantage of the strategic and administrative benefits that our global financial centre offers. The noted increase in the quality business happening on-island is a reflection of the type of businesses and professionals making the BVI stronger.”

The release mentioned recent activity of the BVI-based law firms which added to the strength of territory’s financial sector: law firm Ogier provided a counsel on a US$350mln biopharmaceutical merger, Appleby acted as advisers on a private token sale, raising about US$1bln, and earlier in 2018 Harneys represented an Information Technology services provider on a US$2bln merger acquisition. The last transaction is a new BVI record for the largest takeover of a publicly-listed BVI company by transaction value.

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Friday, May 31, 2019

BVI Urged UK Government to Back Modern Partnership with OTs


At the recent meeting at the House of Commons with Andrew Rosindell, MP, chairman of the the Overseas Territories All Party Parliamentary Group in the UK government, the special representative of the British Virgin Islands urged to support the renewal of partnership with Overseas Territories including BVI.

Benito Wheatley welcomed the position of the UK government stated by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office not to force the OTs to adopt the UK decisions on the Territories in areas of governance “constitutionally devolved to them without their consent”. He added: “It is now time for the UK Parliament to support a renewal of the modern partnership between the UK and Overseas Territories based on the principle of self-governance and we hope there will be no further parliamentary moves to undermine the UK Government position that rejects the use of Orders in Council against the Territories.” 

Wheatley also praised Rosindell for his long-standing support to the Overseas Territories including BVI and for respecting their constitutions. It is known that the UK government is taking steps to mitigate possible adverse effects that Brexit, which is now planned on October 31, can have on the British Virgin Islands. Governor Augustus Jaspert stated that many of the benefits that the BVI currently receives from its association with the EU, including EU funding and trade benefits, would go unchanged when Brexit is finalised - among them.

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Friday, May 10, 2019

BVI FSC Issued Statistical Bulletin for Q4 2018


The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission has issued the fifty-third volume of its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, providing analysis and information about financial services activities for the fourth quarter of 2018. According to the information published by the Registry of Corporate Affairs, which maintains the required registers of companies, there were 8,916 new incorporations of business companies in Q4 2018 (a 6.88% decrease when compared to 9,575 in Q3 2018 and 4.43% increase when compared to 8,538 in Q4 2017). Cumulative number of companies on the Register was 402,907 as at 31 December 2018.

In the fourth quarter of the year, there were 37 Limited Partnerships (LPs) newly formed in the BVI. There was a 37.04% increase in the number of new Limited Partnerships formed in Q4 2018 when compared to 27 in Q4 2017, and a 67.54% decrease in the number of LPs when compared to 114 in Q3 2018. Cumulative number of active LPs was 940 in the year 2018.

According to the information of the Intellectual Property Unit within the Registry of Corporate Affairs, which is responsible for administering all laws relating to intellectual property in the British Virgin Islands, in Q4 2018 there were 58 applications to register a trade mark - that is 61.11% increase when compared to 36 in Q4 2017, and 15.94% decrease compared to 69 in Q3 2018.

The figures of Banking, Insolvency and Fiduciary Services statistics recorded for all commercial banks show the decrease of cash items quarter over quarter and increase year over year. Loans and advances increased quarter over quarter and decreased year over year, while investments decreased quarter over quarter. The Net Interest Income for commercial banks decreased by 1.72% in Q4 2018 when compared to Q4 2017, and decreased by 23.68% in Q4 2018 when compared to Q3 2018.

Further information, including also Investment business and Insurance statistics, can be found on the BVI FSC homepage.

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Monday, April 29, 2019

2019 Budget Passed by the House of Assembly


On April 26, following two days of debates, the House of Assembly of the British Virgin Islands has passed the budget 2019 with amendments; legally titled the Appropriation Act 2019, it has retroactively come into force on January 1, 2019.

The largest share of the budget is reportedly given to the Ministry of Health & Social Development. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries & Agriculture is the one to receive the second largest share, followed by the Ministry of Transportation, Works & Utilities.

The fourth most significant share of the budget was received by the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Natural Resources, and the fifth one was received by the Ministry of Labour & Immigration.

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Friday, April 05, 2019

BVI Government investing into BVI Health Services Authority


The new Premier and Minister of Finance Andrew Fahie made the announcement during the budget address in the House of Assembly that BVI Government will invest US$2,5mln into the BVI Health Services Authority. The main purpose of the investment is to boost medical tourism in the territory. The Premier also said: “This essential investment is critical to ensuring that the BVIHSA is able to collect sufficient revenue to meet all of its obligations.”

By words of BVI Premier, when medical tourism starts generating sufficient revenue, the government will no longer inject millions into the BVIHSA through the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme. The NHI receives a yearly allocation of US$42 million from the BVI’s annual budget

This year, the Ministry of Health was allocated total amount of US$60,552,125, which makes 10.2% of this year’s US$426 million budget.

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Friday, March 29, 2019

CDB Issued Regional Report and Economic Forecast for 2018-2019


The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) said in its regional assessment and economic outlook report that the Caribbean region has grown a substantive rate over the last year, primarily due to tourism growth and hurricane recovery. Financial position of the Caribbean countries mostly remained positive, with decline of the public debt in the region from 67% of GDP in 2017 to 63% in 2018. Debt-to-GDP ratios fell in 13 borrowing member countries, and debt is still over 60% in 11 territories.

The Caribbean development bank forecast economic growth for almost all its member countries, with an average rate of 2%, noting that growth depends also in international trends. The CDB projected that Grenada will have the fastest economic growth in 2019, along with Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. It is expected that economic growth will continue in the British Virgin Islands, together with continued recovery from hurricanes of 2017. Business services, tourism, construction and agriculture will provide growth in most member countries.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

BVI Premier Initiates Forensic Audit of Finances


BVI Premier Andrew Fahie announced that a forensic audit on the finances of the government is expected to be done within the first 100 days of the VIP government, the completion date would be in June 2019. The audit which will be conducted by an unspecified firm is not exclusive to the finances of the territory, but has the purpose to reveal the “overall status” of the government of the British Virgin Islands.

In his speech at the House of Assembly on March 12 during the swearing ceremony, Premier Fahie said that the “comprehensive forensic audit… will allow us an accurate assessment of where we are so that we can better manage the expectations [of residents] and build a strong foundation on which to build upon as your new government.”

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Saturday, March 09, 2019

New Ministers Appointed by BVI Premier


During the ceremony to swear in the new government ministers, which was held in the Government House, the new BVI Premier Andrew Fahie announced extensive ministerial reshuffling. Mr. Fahie is minister of finance, the portfolio of minister of health and social development is given to Carvin Malone, Kye Rymer is the newly appointed minister of transportation, works and utilities, Vincent Wheatley is minister of education, culture, youth affairs, fisheries and agriculture, Sharie de Castro is junior minister of trade and economic development, and Shereen Flax-Charles is junior minister of tourism; Neville Smith will serve as deputy speaker in the House of Assembly, and will occasionally fill in as a junior minister or minister.

The BVI government announced that Dr. Wheatley was sworn in as deputy premier for a period of three months. During the first year, every three months Mr. Fahie will appoint different minister to this position to provide necessary experience to the leaders. According to the government press release, after the first year someone will take this post permanently. 

Reorganization also includes the responsibility for telecommunications, ports and airports taken by the Premier’s Office, and responsibility for immigration taken by the newly formed Ministry of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration. Among other changes there is moving of the Department of Agriculture and the Conservation and Fisheries Department from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour to the newly renamed Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture.

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Friday, March 01, 2019

General Elections Won by VIP, Andrew Fahie Sworn as New Premier


Andrew Fahie has become the new Premier of the British Virgin Islands, after the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) has won the majority 8 of the 13 seats at the 2019 General Elections. On Tuesday, BVI Governor Augustus Jaspert officially swore in the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) leader as the Premier; now he is to appoint five elective representatives as government ministers.

The Virgin Islands Party won four district seats and four Territorial At-large seats. Those who received the seats from the party are Andrew Fahie, Kye Rymer, Dr Natalio Wheatley, Vincent Wheatley, Sharie de Castro, Neville ‘Sheep’ Smith, Shereen Flax-Charles, and Carvin Malone. Progressive Virgin Islands Movement candidate Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull, Progressives United leader Julian Fraser, and the NDP’s three elected candidates Mark Vanterpool, Alvera Maduro-Caines, and Marlon Penn received the other five seats.

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Friday, February 22, 2019

BVI FSC Issued Statistical Bulletin for Q3 2018


Last week the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission has published the fifty-second volume of Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, where provided analysis and statistics on the financial services industry in the third quarter of 2018.

According to the information provided by the Registry of Corporate Affairs, which is responsible for maintaining the required Registers of Companies, in the three months ended on September 30, 2019 there were 9,575 Business Companies incorporated in the jurisdiction, which is an increase as compared to 9,126 BC’s registered in the second quarter of 2018, and a 25.34% increase compared to 7,639 companies incorporated in the third quarter of 2017. Total number of BCs on the BVI Register as at 30 Sept 2018 was 422,594. 99.86% of Business Companies registered in the BVI are Companies Limited by Shares.

There were 114 new Limited Partnerships formed in Q3 2019 - compared to 38 in the previous quarter of 2018 and 23 in the third quarter of 2017. As at 30 September there were 917 active Limited Partnerships as a result of the steady increase of their number. 

In Banking, Insolvency and Fiduciary services, there was 1 Restricted Banking License and 6 General Banking Licenses issued in the third quarter of 2018. Total Deposits rose by US$467,284 (27.92%) in Q3 2018 when compared to total deposits in Q3 2017 and by US$119,544(5.91%) when compared to Q2 2018. For BVI licensed commercial banks, net interest income was US$68,648 - this is 4.81% increase when compared to Q3 2017, and 46.97% increase when compared to Q2 2018. Also, in Q3 2018 3 new Investment Business Licences were issued, making total number to reach 411 at 30 September 2018.

According to the statistics of the Enforcement Committee, there were 53 enforcement actions levied; 1 administrative penalty, 4 public statement, 1 licence revocation and 2 strongly worded letters against licensees. More information and details can be found on the home page of the Financial Services Commission.

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