Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Elise Donovan to Become Interim Director of BVI London Office


The Director of the BVI House Asia Elise Donovan has been appointed by the Government as Interim Director of the BVI London Office. She will change in this post Benito Wheatley, and will be transitioning there from August 20 to December 31. After this period, she will return to the BVI to the post of Chief Executive Officer of BVI Finance, which will be left by Lorna Smith.

The duties of the Director of BVI London Office include advising the Premier on matters for implementation and making recommendations to ministries, international agencies, the private sector and other agencies. She will be also responsible for “strengthening BVI’s voice with Her Majesty’s Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office”; monitoring political, legislative and diplomatic developments in the UK and EU, and providing timely analysis of those affecting or potentially impacting the BVI. 

Meanwhile, the BVI Government has already started to search for new and permanent directors of the BVI House Asia and the BVI London Office.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

BVI Provides Visa Exemption Policy for Chinese Nationals

Chinese nationals received the right to enter and remain in the British Virgin Islands without the need for a visa, for business and tourism only, for a period of less than 6 months. This continues the BVI visa exemption policy which went into effect on September 1, 2016, and through which foreign nationals, including Chinese people, were allowed to enter the jurisdiction without BVI visa if they held the UK, U.S. or Canadian visa.

The BVI government believes that the visa exemption will help with the country’s global marketability in tourism and financial services sector. Chinese nationals will have the right to visit the BVI for business matters related to the BVI incorporated companies, as well as litigations in the BVI courts

China is currently the largest tourism source market in the world, and the second largest economy. It has been the largest trading partner of the British Virgin Islands for more than 25 years. Chinese and Hong Kong companies comprise 41% of the US$1.5 trillion of assets going through the BVI.

Monday, June 18, 2018

BVI Premier on a Mission to Asia to Promote BVI Financial Services


From June 2 to 17, BVI Premier and Minister of Finance Orlando Smith was leading a delegation to a number of cities in Asia, to host mini-conferences to promote traditional and new business and financial services products of the British Virgin Islands. During his visit, he had meetings with main government and industry professionals in the Asian region.

During one of the conferences held on June 12, among the topics discussed there were BVI Advantage, the opening of Bank of Asia in BVI, new BVI products such as Micro Business Companies Act, Limited Partnership Act. This conference was attended by more than 100 practitioners from BVI and China private sector. 

The Premier commented on other meetings held: “I am pleased that we have also had productive meetings with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce and the China Friendship Association, all of whom welcomed the several developments in the BVI that will further the economic relationship between BVI and China.”

Thursday, June 07, 2018

BVI Government Appoints Legal Council to Advise on Public Register


In the press briefing held on May 30, BVI Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr Orlando Smith, announced that the government has appointed legal counsel to advise on potential legal issues related to the public register of beneficial ownership imposed by Britain. This appointment followed the UK Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill which requires Overseas Territories, including the BVI, to make public beneficial ownership of all registered companies. With this Bill, the UK receives the right to implement sanctions on individuals, companies and states, and address money-laundering after the Brexit.

BVI Premier said that the legal team “is confident that the imposition of a public register would raise serious constitutional and human rights issues and would be subject to constitutional challenge.” 

A week earlier, BVI diplomat Benito Wheatley has informed the British government that the UK decision to force public registers of beneficial ownership will negatively impact the jurisdiction’s financial services sector that makes more than 60 percent of government revenue.

Monday, May 21, 2018

BVI Premier and Opposition Speak about UK Amendments


After the discussions with the UK parliamentarians concerning the controversial amendments to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith made the statement where he said: “Be in no doubt, that if the UK Parliament proceeds with seeking to impose public registers on the British Virgin Islands, this could fundamentally alter our relationship with the UK and we will take all necessary steps to protect our constitutional rights.”

In his turn, the Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie agreed that this is a “constitutional overreach”, and said that the Opposition and Premier “stand united on protecting the constitutional rights of the British Virgin Islands.” 

The UK amendments impose the requirement for its Overseas Territories including the British Virgin Islands to make public the names of beneficial owners of offshore companies incorporated in the jurisdictions. This could bring harm to the financial services sector which is so important to the BVI, comprising about 60 percent of its annual revenue.

In another press release, the BVI Premier noted that the BVI will not impose public registers unless they are a global standard.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

BVI FSC Issued Financial Services Statistics for Q4 2017


The BVI Financial Services Commission has issued the forty-ninth volume of Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, providing information and analysis of financial services activities in the BVI in the fourth quarter of 2017. In this period, according to the Registry of Corporate Affairs the number of new company incorporations was 8,538 - an increase as compared to the third quarter of 2017 and also the fourth quarter of 2016. Cumulative number of companies as at 31 December 2017 was 389,459. The number of newly registered Private Trust Companies and Limited Partnerships also was higher in the reported period than in the previous quarter of the year, and their cumulative number was 1,089 and 812, respectively. Total number of BVI Business Companies registered in year 2017 was 32,493, which is an increase after the minimum of the previous year.

In Investment Business, there was also an increase in the last quarter of the year, with 30 total funds registered after 11 in the third quarter and 18 in the fourth quarter of 2016. Cumulative number of funds made 1,499 as at 31 December 2017. Total number of Insolvency Practitioners remained the same as in Q3 2017, as well as the total number of Licensed Insurers and Functionaries. 

In the sphere of International Co-operation, there were 18 Formal Incoming requests and 62 Enforcement Matters in the reported period, which is less than in the previous quarter of the year. Also, in Q4 2017 there were 111 ongoing supervision matters referred to the Licensing and Supervisory Committee and related to Banking, Insolvency and Fiduciary services, 50 related to Investment Business, and 19 related to Insurance.

Monday, April 30, 2018

BVI Eligible for Association Membership in the Caribbean Forum


CARIFORUM director has confirmed that the British Virgin Islands is eligible for associate membership in this regional organization which engages in policy dialogue with the European Union on behalf of a number of Caribbean states. Confirmation of BVI eligibility became part of a CARIFORUM regional consultation in Barbados in April, which focused on establishing an effective platform for dialogue between CARIFORUM and French Caribbean Outermost Regions and British and Dutch OCTs.

The BVI will no longer be treated as OCT after the UK exits the European Union in March 2019, so the government of the territory is seeking the way to continue BVI current relationship with the EU through CARIFORUM. Currently member states of CARIFORUM include Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. 

The assistant secretary for external affairs in BVI Premier’s Office Christopher said in her comments: “We welcome that associate membership is open to the BVI. This status would give us a more meaningful status in CARIFORUM whereby we can participate in the Caribbean’s policy dialogue with the EU and regional coordination. At the moment we remain an observer.”

Thursday, March 29, 2018

BVI and EU co-chair Meeting to Discuss EU Tax List Issues


BVI and European Commission co-chaired the meeting of financial services partnership working party which was held in Belgium between the EU and a number of Overseas Countries and Territories. During the meeting, the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes was discussed. From OCT jurisdictions, there were representatives of Aruba, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands and some others, from EU, there were the officials from the Directorate General for Tax and Customs Union and Directorate General for International Development and Cooperation. 

Beside the listing process and ongoing procedures, the participants of the meeting also discussed beneficial ownership developments in the EU and OCTs and EU approach to taxation in the digital economy sector. 

BVI London Office director and UK and EU representative Benito Wheatley co-chaired the meeting on behalf of the BVI, and currently is co-chairing the OCT/EU financial services partnership working party. He said in his comments: “It is critical that the EU and OCTs maintain dialogue on tax and other financial services issues to gain a greater understanding of any concerns.”

Thursday, March 22, 2018

BVI Finance Hosting Expo for Job Seekers in Financial Services


This week, BVI Finance is hosting a Financial Services Opportunities Expo to give the possibility for job seekers to join the financial services industry of the jurisdiction. More than 75 job seekers are already considered to be hired. BVI Finance has said in the media release that participants will have opportunities to speak directly with financial services firms and be interviewed for available positions. Also, they can attend breakout sessions surrounding professional development in the financial industry, and participate in feedback sessions.

According to BVI Finance, “The Expo aims to help the islands rebuild by facilitating gainful employment. This initiative is from the Committee to Revitalize Financial Services of the Virgin Islands that was established last year. Later this year, similar expos will be planned for the tourism and general business industries.”

Monday, March 19, 2018

BVI FSC Announced Registration of Loss Adjusters


The Financial Services Commission issued a public notice advising insurance professionals and general public of the list of the Loss Adjusters, including Public Loss Adjusters registered under Section 9(6) of Financial Services (Continuity of Business) Act, 2017 (the “Continuity of Business Act”). The document provides for the registration of Loss Adjusters to assess insurance claims resulting from Hurricanes.

It is advised by the Commission that the Loss Adjusters named in the list have been registered pursuant to the Continuity of Business Act until 31 March 2018, when the Continuity of Business Act ceases to be in force.

Friday, March 16, 2018

BVI Gets New Status on EU Tax list


On March 13, 2018, the European Union has made changes to the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions: three countries were removed and further three were added to it. Bahrain, the Marshall Islands and Saint Lucia were said by the EU Council to have made commitments to answer the EU’s concerns about them, and the Bahamas, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and the US Virgin Islands were, in their turn, included in the list.

The British Virgin Islands, along with Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica were added to annex II of the list, which includes territories that have made commitments to reform their tax policies. These jurisdictions are subject to close monitoring. The original list comprised 17 jurisdictions and was announced on December 5, 2017.

Monday, February 26, 2018

BVI Among Major FDI Sources for New Zealand


According to the information of New Zealand’s lobby group, foreign direct investment (ownership of companies) in the country increased by 653% from $15.7 billion in 1989 to $113 billion in 2017. Most assets are owned by businesses from Australia, and the British Virgin Islands also are among the major investors along with the US, Hong Kong, the UK, Japan, Singapore, Netherlands, Canada, Cayman Islands, and a number of other countries.

By words of Bill Rosenberg of the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA), "All had over $100m in foreign direct investment in New Zealand. These accounted for 95 per cent of foreign direct investment in New Zealand and Australia alone accounts for 51 per cent. Luxembourg, British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands are tax havens, and the Netherlands has been used to avoid tax.

He also said that foreign owned entities keep control of 38% of the share market of New Zealand in 2017, while in 1989 it was 19%. Last year, the Overseas Investment Office approved foreign investments in the country in the amount of $5.3 billion.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

British House of Lords Voting Against Public Beneficial Owners Register


The amendment proposal for the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and four other British Overseas Territories to implement public register of beneficial owners behind offshore companies registered in these jurisdiction was rejected in British House of Lords, by 211 to 201. The peers voted during the debate on the proposed Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill; the public register requirement was for the purposes of “preventing money-laundering”.

The amendment, if accepted, would allow the UK government to demand the offshore countries to provide details of companies’ owners. It was already the fourth time when the idea of public registers was discussed in the House of Lords.

In the opinion of the Conservative member of the Lords who argued against the proposal the law enforcement agencies do not support public registers as they actually don’t help law enforcement. He also noted that the UK overseas countries already shown themselves“extremely efficient in responding to the requests of policing and other agencies”.

Other concerns expressed included the potential identity theft that can be facilitated by the public register of beneficial ownership, as well as possible loss of business in favour of competitors. There were also warnings against legislating for self-governing overseas territories.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

BVI Government Receiving US$65.5mn in Loans and Grants


The board of directors of the Caribbean Development Bank has approved that US$65.5 million will be provided to the government of the British Virgin Islands, in loans and grants. The loans are aimed to assist with the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction of social and economic infrastructure in the jurisdiction.

According to the preliminary assessment report estimates of the BVI government, there are US$3 billion in damage and losses from Hurricane Irma, which is three times the annual gross domestic product of the country. 

The rehabilitation and reconstruction project which includes several components is to strengthen the socio-cultural and economic preparedness and resilience of the British Virgin Islands to future climate-related hazards. It will be supported through US$65.2 million loan and US$300,000 grant.

In Autumn 2017, three immediate response loans were already approved by the Caribbean Development Bank, totalling US$2.25 million and an emergency relief grant of US$200,000 to the British Virgin Islands after the Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and Tropical Storm José.

Monday, December 18, 2017

UK MP Standing for British Overseas Territories to be Represented in Parliament


The British Conservative member of Parliament, Andrew Rosindell, was speaking for the Friends of the British Overseas Territories in London, saying that the BOTs should have better and equitable parliamentary representation. He also said it was wrong that the British territories are dealt with by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) because they are not foreign.

Rosindell is the chairman of the Friends of the British Overseas Territories and is in a senior position on the various committees relating to the British territories. He is also a long-time defender of the rights of the BOTs, supporting more equity for them in the British family. He has called for the territories to be dealt with by a single UK government department, and noted that in case of disaster, for example a recent hurricane, the British government should act as in case of natural disaster in the UK. 

The Conservative politician and his supporters in the UK suggested that Crown Dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man and the Caribbean territories of Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos should have one MP each, while the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat should have a shared representative, and the same should be done for Gibraltar, Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas and British Indian Ocean Territory.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

BVI FSC Issued Statistical Bulletin for Q3 2017


In the end of November, the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission issued the forty-eighth volume of Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, providing information on financial services activities in the territory for the third quarter of 2017. Statistics of the Registry of Corporate Affairs shows that 7,639 new business companies were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in this period, as compared to 7,621 companies registered in the second quarter of 2017, and 7,766 companies registered in the third quarter of the previous year. Cumulative number of BVI BCs was 413,273 as at 30 September 2017. The Registry also published information about 24 Private Trust Companies and 23 Limited Partnerships incorporated in Q3 2017, cumulative number as at 30 September 2017 was 1,121 and 758, respectively.

According to Investment Business statistics, 14 new licences were granted to Approved Investment Managers, 3 licences granted to Professional Mutual Funds, and 2 licences to Private Mutual Funds. In total, 11 funds were registered/recognized in the third quarter of the year. 

In the reported period, there were 28 Insolvency Practitioners in the BVI in Q3 2017 (27 in Q2 2017, and 26 in Q3 2016). Cumulative number of Insurance Licensees and Functionaries as at 30 September of this year remained the same as by the end of the previous quarter. 

In the sphere of International Co-operation, in the third quarter of 2017 there were 49 Formal Incoming Requests, 1 Formal Request, 1 Formal Outgoing Request, 153 Enforcement Matters and 17 Enforcement Investigations. Of Ongoing Supervision Matters referred to the Licensing and Supervisory Committee, 79 referred to Banking, Insolvency and Fiduciary services, 110 referred to Investment Business, and 114 to Insurance. Other relevant information and statistics can be found on the website of BVI FSC.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

CARICOM will Hold Conference to Support its Members


Next month, on November 20-21, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will hold a high-level donor conference in the US, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The conference will have the purpose to mobilise international resources for member CARICOM countries devastated by hurricanes, among them Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, the Bahamas, St Kitts-Nevis, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos Islands and St Martin.

According to the statement issued by CARICOM secretariat, the initiative is “aimed at rebuilding the devastated members as the first climate resilient countries in the world and helping the wider CARICOM region improve its resilience”…”International Development Partners, friendly countries, NGOs, prominent personalities, private sector entities and foundations have been invited. CARICOM heads of government and the Secretaries-General of CARICOM and the United Nations will also participate.”

Friday, October 27, 2017

BVI FSC Announced Appointment of New Asia Representative


The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission has issued press release where announced the appointment of Mr. Burton Chalwell who will replace Mr. Leon Wheatley as the new Asia Representative of the Commission. Mr. Wheatley will return to the BVI headquarters of the BVI FSC and serve as a Deputy Director with supervision of the Compliance Inspection Unit.

The appointment of Mr. Chalwell was effective 9 October 2017, and previous representative is expected to assume his new post on 13 November 2017. In the role of Asia Rep at BVI FSC (HK) Ltd., Mr. Chalwell’s duty will be managing the delivery of services offered from the Commission’s office at BVI House Asia, and the Asia Pacific liaison for BVI Financial Services licensees and regulators with a presence in the region

Robert Mathavious, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, commented on the appointment, saying: “Asia continues to be a key market for the British Virgin Islands and we are very pleased with the talent that the Commission has in the region and the services and expertise we can provide in Asia. We are confident that Mr. Chalwell will be an excellent addition to the team. We are also very excited that Mr. Wheatley will be coming back to Commission headquarters after a very successful stint in Asia and look forward to his continued service to the Commission and the industry.”

Saturday, October 21, 2017

BVI Financial Services Industry Continues Functioning


According to the leaders of the British Virgin Islands financial services industry, there is no loss of confidence in the businesses, despite the severe damages done to the territory by Hurricane Irma. Head of Business Development and Marketing department in BVI Finance, Gary Hales, said: “Generally, people are still comfortable using the BVI. By way of example, there are three potential funds which are still looking at the possibility of using BVI… There is no sense of loss of confidence or business, so the BVI is definitely proving that the financial services industry is robust.”

The director of BVI House Asia in Hong Kong, Elise Donovan, confirmed that the financial services industry there is appreciative of accessibility to services; also, the Cayman Islands where all the large companies operating in the BVI are now represented, note the seamless continuation of BVI services. 

It is also important that the premises of BVI Financial Services Commission, regulating the financial industry, survived the hurricane. So, they became operational in some days, and full functionality has been restored to the online company registration portal.

Interim Executive Director at BVI Finance, Lorna Smith, said that there was a keen determination among industry partners to ensure the survival of financial services as part of the overall recovery for the British Virgin Islands.

Monday, October 16, 2017

National Bank Suspending Loan Payments


The National Bank of the Virgin Islands announced that it would put a three-month suspension on payments for all personal, residential and commercial loans, in connection with Hurricane Irma. The customers having personal loans are not required to take any action, while persons with residential mortgages and commercial loans are required to fill out and sign a form confirming the status of their property and/or business, insurance claims, and future intentions.

All payment moratorium requests are to be submitted to the Bank by October, 27, while those who wish to continue payment need only contact the bank. 

The National Bank will also host a series of community outreach sessions aimed at facilitating customers who want to take advantage of its loan concessions.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

BVI Government Establishes Business Development Fund


BVI Premier Dr D Orlando Smith announced that the Government is offering loans to persons whose businesses were damaged or destroyed during the hurricanes. He said that the BVI Government is going to create a special Business Development Fund, where businesses can apply within the next two weeks.

The fund is established in order to recover the economy struck by the storm. The Government will also provide generators to businesses that still need power after the hurricanes. The Premier said: “It is a priority for me to ensure that your local businesses are up and running and that they continue to provide goods and services to us and also jobs to our people for the continuation of our economy.”