Thursday, February 04, 2016

BVI Takes Part in a Study on Diversification of Caribbean OCTs

The British Virgin Islands is taking part in a regional study on diversification of the Caribbean countries, launched in November last year by the EU-funded Caribbean Overseas Small and Medium Enterprises Programme. The purpose of the study is to determine if the economies of the Caribbean Overseas Territories need diversification, and give recommendations how to do it.

BVI Premier and minister of finance, Dr Orlando Smith, noted that the study is in line with BVI government’s economic strategy to diversify the long term sustainability of current and emerging sectors of the economy.
The main objective of Caribbean Overseas Small and Medium Enterprises i(COSME) s improving the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises in the British, Dutch and French OCTs by facilitating enhanced business enabling environment. Among the beneficiary countries there are BVI, Anguilla, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

BVI FSC Announces New Appointments

The BVI Financial Services Commission has issued press release where announced several additions to its management team and changes to Commission staff.

Stephen Grayson has been appointed the new Deputy Director, Legal, and will serve in this post for 3 years. Mr. Grayson will be focused on providing advice to the Commission on financial services legislation and related matters and providing leadership to and ensuring the overall development of the Commission’s in-house legal team. Before joining the BVI FSC team, he was Regulatory Lawyer/Investigator in the Financial Conduct Authority (UK).

Simon Gray has become Special Advisor responsible for Regulatory Training and Development. He is a financial services and risk management professional having previously worked as Director, Supervision and Head of Islamic Finance at the Dubai Financial Services Authority.

Ms. Simone Martin has been appointed the Acting Director of Insurance. Mr. Leon Wheatley will take the post of Asia Representative and move to the Hong Kong Office of the Commission at BVI House Asia. He will serve as Asia Representative until July 2017.

Other appointments include Ms. Yolanda McCoy as the Acting Deputy Director, Fiduciary Services, and Mr. Burton Chalwell as the Acting Deputy Director, Compliance Inspection.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Common Reporting Standards Come into Force in BVI

The so called Common Reporting Standards, developed by the OECD, came into effect from January 1, 2016 in many jurisdictions, including the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Guernsey, and Jersey, providing for the exchange information between tax authorities. According to the publication by Ropes & Gray, in the countries which accepted this standard from the beginning of the year and are part of the “Early Adopters Group”, all persons opening new accounts are required to provide “self-certifications” allowing financial institutions to perform due diligence and define their tax residency. The first exchange of information as regards certain account holders is expected to take place in 2017.

All investment funds in the BVI and other Early Adopter jurisdictions should have updated subscription procedures for new investors admitted on or after January 1, 2016, and should be ready to gather additional information from all existing investors.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

BVI Government Representatives Meeting EU Officials

According to the statement issued by the BVI Government, its London Office Director and EU representative recently co-chaired an EU/OCT Financial Services Partnership Working Party meeting in Brussels, Belgium, having discussed the issue why earlier this year BVI was placed on the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions.

The Director of Policy, Research and Statistics at the BVI FSC Cherno Jallow and other OCT technical experts had the meeting on the issue with European Commission officials from the Directorate General for Taxation and Customs Union, talking about the European Union position on blacklisting of Overseas Territories. By words of Jallow, the sides agreed that the inclusion of countries on the list had to be further considered in connection with co-operation between the EU and OCTs in the sphere of financial services.

Other issued discussed during the meeting were operation of the platform for tax good governance, re-launching of the common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB), Country-by-Country reporting and other EU initiatives.

The BVI FSC representative also had a meeting with the UK person on the European Parliament, Daniel Dalton, to brief him on the “high international standards met by the BVI on tax and transparency during the meeting”.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Captive Insurance Consultant Hired by BVI Finance

BVI Finance (formerly known as the BVI International Finance Centre and rebranded in 2015) has hired a senior insurance consultant, who is a trained accountant experienced in the captive insurance sector, to assist the development of the captives industry in the British Virgin Islands and improve the Financial Services sector in the territory.

Malcolm Cutts-Watson will have the duty to navigate the emerging trends and developments in the global captive market, and advice as to how the jurisdiction could benefit from the opportunities and escape any threats. He will also assist in providing competitiveness of the BVI product offering in the global market. By words of Julien Johnson, the executive director of BVI Finance, the consultant’s responsibility will include review of the relevant legislation and proposal for amendments to the Insurance (Amendment) Act 2014/2015.

Cutts-Watson currently is a non-executive director of Cutts-Watson Consulting Limited; he has more than 30 years of experience in the sector having consulted clients in Europe and Asia. Also, he is an approved manager in a number of jurisdictions, among them the greater Caribbean, USA, Bermuda, Europe, and Africa.

Friday, December 04, 2015

BVI FSC Issued 40th Volume of Statistical Bulletin

The BVI Financial Services Commission has published the fortieth volume of the Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, providing statistics on financial services activities in the jurisdiction in the third quarter of 2015. According to the statistics of the Registry of Corporate Affairs, in this period 11,951 new companies were incorporated in BVI, as compared to 11,059 companies registered in the second quarter of the year, and 11,376 companies registered in the third quarter of 2014. As at 30 September 2015, cumulative number of Business Companies registered in the British Virgin Islands was 475,309.

In Investment Business sector, 1 Investment Business licence was granted in the third quarter of 2015, as well as 23 Professional and 3 Private Mutual Fund licences. As at 30 September 2015, 483 Investment Business licences, and 1,463 Professional, 484 Private and 77 Public Mutual Fund licences were granted in the British Virgin Islands.

In the third quarter of 2015, there were 25 Licenced Insolvency Practitioners functioning in the jurisdiction. According to the Legal and Enforcement and Co-operation Statistics, there were 64 International Co-operation Matters with formal requests, 6 Co-operation Matters with informal requests, 13 Enforcement Matters and 23 Enforcement Investigations. Other information, key figures and statistics on the financial services in the British Virgin Islands in the third quarter of 2015 can be found on the home page of BVI Financial Services Commission.

Friday, November 27, 2015

First Meeting of the Board of BVI International Arbitration Centre

The Board of the BVI International Arbitration Centre, which was appointed on 7 September, 2015, had its first meeting in Tortola, BVI. Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. Orlando Smith informed the Board of the full support of the BVI Government, and of its commitment to the independence and autonomy of the Centre.

It was stated by the Chairman of the Board Mr. John Beechey that the inaugural meeting had been the first opportunity for members of the Board to discuss together timetable and outstanding action items. The immediate tasks with which the Board had to work were the finalisation of Rules for the Centre and the formation of panel of arbitrators.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

BVI Presented as Top Financial Centre at China Offshore Summit

British Virgin Islands was named the most important and most preferred offshore jurisdiction in the Asia Pacific, already for the sixth year. The survey was conducted inside and outside the region, and in respondents’ opinion BVI remains the undisputed market leader in the financial services industry.

At the 2015 China Offshore Summit, which was held in Shanghai on November 4-5, CEO of Vistra Group Martin Crawford made a presentation on behalf of BVI Finance. He said that the BVI territory held about 50 percent of the market share of new offshore companies formed globally and, of the active companies on the BVI’s registry, about 60 percent were from Asian clients. He stated that in the Global Financial Centres Index the BVI is ranked at the top of the most competitive offshore financial centres, and named some factors that help BVI remain the leader, among them legal and commercial certainty, and robust regulatory standards, being focused on “value-added” rather than pure volume.

Additionally, Crawford said that the top ten listed companies on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and the Shanghai Stock Exchange had BVI subsidiaries.

Presentations were also made for the BVI at the Summit by group legal counsel at AMS Financial Group, Barry Mitchell, director of BVI House Asia, Elise Donovan, and managing partner in China of Harney, Westwood and Riegels, Kristy Calvert. China Offshore Summit was attended by more than 500 Chinese business leaders.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Opposition Leader Speaks to Public

The parliamentary opposition of the British Virgin Islands has been criticized for keeping silence since it lost the general elections in June, but this week opposition leader Julian Frazer said to the public that they will start working soon. He added that the PAC (Public Accounts Committee) will be on track soon, and “the budget time coming up.”

After the defeat of the opposition led by Frazer, he and Andrew Fahie remained the only members of the Opposition Virgin Islands Party in the House of Assembly – the two other seats the party had were lost. However, when choosing between two members, Frazer was selected again as the leader of the opposition. NDP returned to government for the second term, with eleven seats in the House.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

British Overseas Territories are Offered to Have Representation in UK Parliament

The UK Parliament MP from Conservatives, chairing the Parliamentary British Overseas Territories Committee, has said that the overseas territories should be represented in the UK Parliament, based on the fact that some UK territories including Scotland have less autonomy but have their representation in Westminster. He also stated that the French, Dutch, and Danish overseas territories had elected representation in the national parliaments. He said that it is worth to consider allowing British Overseas Territories and crown dependency members in the House of Lords.

British MP was speaking on the fringe meeting that was hosted by the Friends of the British Overseas Territories, meant to bring together all the 16 of them. Overseas territories have mixed opinions about full Westminster representation, but, by his words, at last the discussion was initiated on the issue.

Regarding the future referendum on the EU membership, he said that it will definitely have an impact on the UK territories, as many of them have their business in the European Union.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Annual BVI Asia 2015 Business Conference Held Backed by BVI House Asia

The Business BVI ASIA 2015 annual regional conference which took place on September 23 attracted more than 100 offshore industry experts and leaders from the most progressive businesses in Asia and British Virgin Islands. The conference named "Pivoting to Asia - A View Beyond the Horizon" was sponsored by BVI House Asia already for the second year.

The conference presentations included "China's One Belt One Road Regional Development Strategy: Long Term Opportunities for the Offshore Sector," made by Dr Qian Liu, director of Economics Unit, The Economist Group, Beijing; "Future Disruption in the Offshore Space: Where will the next 'Uber' come from?"; and "Emerging Wealth in China: Millionaire Households and Ultra High-Net Worth Households."

It was stated by Dr.Qian Liu that, with outbound direct investment from China having increased 35% since 2005, "Chinese companies investing in international markets want the certainty that BVI structures, backed by BVI courts and English common law, provide, rather than relying on the courts of countries in emerging markets. Second, China's fast-rising middle class will want trust funds, private wealth management and other services that the BVI can arrange. Finally, the Chinese middle class wants to spend more on tourism, a trend that began in Southeast Asia and continues in Hawaii, Tahiti and the Caribbean. As a tourist destination, the BVI sits on the rising demand for tourism."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

New Members Appointed to BVI International Arbitration Centre Board

The BVI FSC released information about the appointments of five inaugural members for the BVI International Arbitration Centre Board. The BVI International Arbitration Centre was established with the purpose to provide full-service support and facilities for arbitration and mediation proceedings. The first board members were appointed by the Cabinet of the British Virgin Islands on September 7; the newly appointed members are Mr. John Beechey, who became the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Mark Forte, Mr. Cherno Jallow, QC, Mr. Murray Smith and Ms. Felice Swapp.

Mr. John Beechey is an independent arbitrator, who was President of the ICC International Court of Arbitration from 2009 until June, 2015. Mr. Mark Forte is a Partner and Head of Litigation & Restructuring in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) office of Conyers Dill & Pearman. Mr. Cherno Jallow is the Director of Policy, Research and Statistics at the BVI Financial Services Commission. Mr. Murray Smith is a chartered arbitrator having extensive experience in commercial arbitration. Ms. Felice Swapp is the Chief Operating Officer of Harney’s.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Final Report Issued by Observer Mission on BVI 2015 General Election

Final report was issued on the 2015 general election held in the BVI in June, including an overview of the election observer mission, advance polling day, elections day, counting of votes, complaints and appeals, and participation of women and young people in the elections. The report, published by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association British Islands and Mediterranean Region, also observes the legal framework of the British Virgin Islands, election administration in the territory, candidate and voter registration, the campaign and the media, and ends with the list of eight recommendations.

The election observer mission recommended the introduction of fixed-term parliaments, and the code of conduct to be signed by candidates. It also offered to create a permanent independent Elections Commission which would provide democratic oversight of the Office of the Supervisor of Elections. Some recommendations related to the BVI legal framework, offering to consolidate various legal acts into a single piece of legislation, and to amend it to include the establishment, registration and regulation of political parties. The mission also provided recommendations on the introduction of finance regulations, on party and candidate advertising, voting process, the closing of the polls and the counting of votes.

Head of the mission stated that the BVI 2015 general election was genuine, vibrant and competitive, “providing the voters an opportunity to cast their votes in secret and express their will in a transparent, peaceful and orderly manner.”

Thursday, September 03, 2015

BVI FSC and Gibraltar FSC signed Memorandum of Understanding

The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission confirmed in the Press Release the signing of Memorandum of Understanding with the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission. The signed document, concerning the supervision of Managers of Alternative Investment Funds, allows for the exchange of information between the two jurisdictions, on matters related to the supervision and oversight of AIFMs, their delegates and depositaries. So, under the MoU, BVI- and Gibraltar regulated funds can operate in both jurisdictions.

The Memorandum was signed on 13 July by Robert Mathavious, the Managing Director/CEO of the BVI FSC, and Samantha Barrass, CEO of the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission. It is stated in the document how information will be exchanged between the financial regulators, the ways how it will be used, as well as confidentiality, share of information, and the procedures of executing requests for assistance.

Currently, the BVI FSC has signed 27 MoUs related to the supervision of Managers of Alternative Investment Funds.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

OECD Improved BVI Status as to Tax Transparency

The OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes has issued review reports for 12 jurisdictions regarding their compliance to the global standards on taxation transparency and information exchange. Among the countries, there was the British Virgin Islands which was stated to have made improvements of its exchange of information practices under its Phase 2 review, and was moved from the status of “Non-Compliant” to “Largely Compliant” jurisdiction.

The OECD Global Forum is the world’s largest international tax group, including 127 members. The Forum has completed 198 peer reviews and assigned compliance ratings to 80 jurisdictions that have undergone Phase 2 reviews.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

BVI FSC Published Financial Services Statistics for Q1 2015

BVI Financial Services Commission has published thirty-eighth volume of the Financial Services Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, which provides statistics and information on financial services activities for the first quarter of 2015. In this period, there were 12,354 new company incorporations in the jurisdiction, - this is an increase compared to 11,436 companies incorporated in the fourth quarter of 2014, but fall in number of companies registered in the first quarter of the previous year (14,062). Cumulative number of companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands as at 31 March 2015 was 478,865. Also, there were 1,104 Private Trust Companies and 701 Limited Partnerships registered in the jurisdiction at the end of Q1 2015.

According to the Investment Business statistics, 8 Professional and 4 Private Mutual Fund licences were granted in the first quarter of 2015. As at 31 March, 2015, cumulative number of Professional Mutual Fund licences granted was 1,479, and number of Private Mutual Fund licences was 525. Also, there were 83 Public Mutual Funds and 5 Foreign Mutual Funds registered in the jurisdiction. 

In the Insurance sector, the number of insurers and functionaries has not changed since the fourth quarter of 2014; as at 31 March, 2015, the total number of 221 insurance and functionaries licences was granted in BVI.

In the areas of Legal and Enforcement and International Cooperation, there were 29 enforcement matters in the reported period (24 in the fourth quarter of 2014). Also, the Commission issued statistics regarding ongoing supervision matters reviewed by the Licensing and Supervisory Committee, and the Onsite Inspections. Further information about financial services in the BVI jurisdiction in the first quarter of 2015 can be found on BVI FSC homepage.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Caribbean Community Issues Statement on Tax Haven Blacklisting

Following the European Commission’s decision to put some Caribbean jurisdictions – members of the Caribbean Community – on the “black list” as non-willing to co-operate with EU countries in the area of tax law enforcement, CARICOM issued a statement strongly objecting this, and emphasizing efforts of CARICOM member states to comply with regulatory measures.

BVI is among the “blacklisted” countries, along with Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The criteria for considering the countries as non-cooperative included governance (transparency and exchange of information) and fair tax competition.

It is remarkable that in a formal statement issued by the OECD Global Forum this month, it has disassociated itself with the decision of the European Commission, although their own assessment was relevant for the purposes of determining country’s cooperation in tax matters. From the Global Forum statement, it became clear that the EU point of view does not correspond with that of the Global Forum, which, in its turn, is planning to extend support to its member countries put on the black list.

Monday, June 08, 2015

BVI and Qianhai Held Cooperative Development Forum

On May 26, the Qianhai-British Virgin Islands (BVI) Cooperative Development forum was held in Shenzhen, PRC, hosted by deputy-directors general of Qianhai Authority who provided latest information on Qianhai’s achievements and future plans. More than 200 financial practitioners and enterprise representatives took part in the forum.

Under the name “Development for cross-border finance under new economic circumstances”, the forum included discussions related to cooperation between BVI and Qianhai, BVI business opportunities and legislation. A panel discussion was held named “How to promote the interaction and development of Qianhai and BVI cross-border financial business.”

Director of BVI House Asia, Elise Donovan, represented the advantages of BVI financial services and company structures used for fund management and asset protection, and said that the territory is ready to deepen bilateral relations with China.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

General Elections 2015: 42 Candidates

In the 2015 general elections in BVI, which will take place on June 8, 42 candidates were nominated in total, of them 13 candidates from the National Democratic Party and the Virgin Islands Party, 5 candidates from the People’s Empowerment Party, 3 candidates from the People’s Progressive Coalition.

At the district level, 6 persons were nominated as independent candidates, and at the territorial at-large lecvel, there are 2 independent candidates nominated.

On Friday, June 5, there will be advance polling day, followed by polling day on Monday.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

General Elections in BVI to be Held in June

The next general election in the British Virgin Islands is set on June 8, a proclamation was published in the Gazette on May 7. The House of Assembly was dissolved on May 1, 2015.

During the general elections, National Democratic Party (NDP), together with its leader Premier Dr Orlando Smith, will try to defend its majority in the House and, in case of success, it will be the first political party in the jurisdiction ruling for 16 years consecutively.

The main opposition will be represented by Virgin Islands Party (VIP), which is led by Julian Fraser. Former premier and leader of the opposition Ralph O’Neal will not participate in the election 2015. There is also a party, newly launched in March 2014, which can change the final results and the political scene of the country, for the first time since 1995 – the People’s Empowerment Party (PEP), led by sitting member of the House, Alvin Christopher.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Report Issued on BVI Financial Services Industry

The BVI government commissioned the report on BVI Financial services sector, which was facilitated by multinational consulting firm McKinsey, with participation of the industry and other stakeholders. The final report named ‘Building on a thriving and sustainable Financial Services sector in the British Virgin Islands’ has the purpose to work out implementation plan to ensure the development of BVI financial services industry.

Premier and minister of finance, Dr Orlando Smith, commented, “For three decades we experienced tremendous growth in our financial services industry, became one of the largest domiciles for company incorporations, and established a global brand that reached through the Americas, into Europe, and across the Asia Pacific Region. Financial services directly account for over 60 percent of our government revenues, and likely upwards of 80 percent of indirect sources are included.”