Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thirty Seventh Volume of Quarterly Statistical Bulletin Issued by BVI FSC

The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission has published the thirty seventh volume of Statistical Bulletin, providing information about financial services in the BVI for the fourth quarter of the year 2014. In the three months period ended December 2014, 11,436 new Business companies were registered in the jurisdiction, according to the Registry of Corporate Affairs – compared to 13,865 companies incorporated in the third quarter of 2014, and 11,375 companies in the fourth quarter of the previous year. Cumulative number of active BVI BCs as at the December 31, 2014 was 457,971. The statistics shows the slight decrease in the number of new companies incorporated in 2014, as compared to 2013, and the decrease is more significant if compared to the peak years of 2011 and 2012.

In the sector of Investment Business, 11 new licenses were granted to Functionaries, and 28 licenses were issued to Mutual Funds. There were 2,142 Mutual Funds registered/recognised in the British Virgin Islands as at 31 December 2014.

Insolvency Services statistics shows that the total number of Licensed Insolvency Services Practitioners in the fourth quarter of 2014 was 26. In Insurance Services sector, total cumulative number of insurance and functionaries licenses granted at the end of the period was 224.

In the sphere of Legal International Cooperation, in the fourth quarter of 2014 there were 18 international cooperation matters requiring disclosure of non-public information, 2 informal requests and 24 enforcement matters. Further information concerning ongoing supervision matters, referred to the Licensing and Supervisory Committee, the number of concluded onsite inspections and other statistics can be found on the BVI FSC homepage.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

BVI House Asia Participates in Asian Wealth Management Forum

BVI represented its offshore services industry at the 5th annual Asia Wealth Management Forum 2015, which was held in Hong Kong, sponsored by BVI House Asia and hosted more than 100 Chief Executive Officers, senior management and other industry practitioners. The themes discussed at the forum included the trends in all segments of the wealth management industry in the region. BVI House Asia were interacting with wealth management practitioners to introduce the presence of the jurisdiction in Asia, and the use of BVI offshore tools and structures in wealth planning schemes.  

The BVI House Asia table included the Director of the BVI House Asia, Elise Donovan, as well as Chief Operating Officer of BVI House Asia Heather Tang, Deputy Director of Banking at the Financial Services Commission of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Michelle Georges, and Team BVI Asia Member Barry Mitchell.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

British Virgin Islands Host EU Meetings

BVI will host three high level European Union meetings, which are scheduled this week with participation of senior EU officials from UK, France, Denmark and Netherlands, as well as OT’s political leaders. By words of Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith, the meetings are the culmination of hard work over the past months. The Premier will co-chair with the European Commission a Caribbean Regional Conference for OTs that will focus on how the territories can work together to achieve sustainable development.

Hon. Orlando Smith will also be the chairman of the OCTA Ministerial Conference where the heads of Government and political leaders will participate in a number of discussions; he will also be the participant of the 13th OCT-EU Forum which is the main vehicle for political dialogue between the European Union and the Overseas Territories. An important part of the talks will be the future of the Overseas Countries and Territories in the European Union.

The British Virgin Islands also manage the project for small and medium sized enterprises on behalf of the Caribbean OTs, which is funded by European Union, and is expected to benefit local small business sector.

Monday, February 16, 2015

BVI Ranks First Among FDI Investors in Vietnam

Foreign Investment Agency in Vietnam informed that in January 2015 the country has attracted more than US$663 million in FDI, which is 67 per cent higher than in the same period of 2014. The British Virgin Islands is number one investor in the economy of the country, its US$331.32 million making half of the total amount. In January, the BVI launched a luxury clothing production project worth US$300 million.  Other leaders among 15 countries that invested in Vietnam in this month are South Korea, with US$110,25 million, and Hong Kong, with US$105.5 million.

Main spheres for FDI in January are process engineering, wholesale and retail, as well as water and electricity production and distribution. As of January 20, US$505 million of FDI were invested in Vietnam. In 2014, the country attracted US$20 billion.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

UK Opposition Leader Issued Letter to UK Overseas Territories

The leader of the UK Opposition Ed Miliband issued a letter to the leaders of British overseas territories, including the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and others, where he said they would have six months to make a public register of offshore companies, in order not to be put on an international blacklist of countries that refused to take measures against tax avoidance.

Mr. Miliband said: "If any Overseas Territory or Crown Dependency does not meet this deadline, we will ask the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to put them on the OECD's tax haven blacklist."

The plan of the leader of the Labour Party was criticised by Conservative Treasury minister David Gauke who said: "the UK is the only country in the OECD committed to a public central register. He wants the OECD to blacklist countries if they don't do the same as us. But that would mean blacklisting every single country in the OECD apart from the UK – countries like the US, France and Germany.”

Saturday, January 17, 2015

BVI Government Launches Labour Force Survey

From January 19, 2015, the BVI government will conduct a month long labour force survey in the Virgin Islands, working in partnership with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Secretariat.

By words of the Director of the Central Statistics Office, Raymond Phillips, this survey provides estimates of employment and unemployment, which are important indicators of economic stability. The survey results will be used to produce employment and unemployment rates, as well as their estimates by industry, private and public sectors, occupation and hours worked.

The labour force survey is funded with resources from the 10th European Development Fund, also support and assistance is provided by the International Labour Organisation and by the EU under the Economic Integration and Trade of the OECS Region project.

Monday, January 12, 2015

BVI in Top Three of Foreign Investors in Philippines

The Board of Investments of Philippines released foreign investments statistics for 2014, which showed the significant 69.42% decrease if compared to 2013. Netherlands are the top source of foreign investments in the country, while Indonesia became the second FDI source. According to BOI data, Netherlands has seven registered projects in Philippines in 2014, the largest of which was the expansion project of 99% Dutch owned Unilever Philippines Inc.

British Virgin Islands, which remained one of the largest foreign investors of the country, is in the third place of the ranking, followed by Switzerland, UK and Japan; however, its investments have substantially declined as compared to 2013. The biggest investment project of the BVI was the Shangri-La Hotel and Services apartments at the Bonifacio Global City.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

BVI Government Introduces Measures to Increase Revenues

The British Virgin Islands Government reported the increase of tax revenue in 2013 by 3.3 percent as compared to the previous year. Payroll taxes increased by 8.5% in 2013, and revenues from property tax and trade taxes decreased.

The BVI Government is implementing a number of measures in the 2015 Budget to expand revenue of the territory. Among the measures that will be undertaken there is changing the current structure of work permits so that fees will be based on occupation type. The Government will also return to imposing import duties on cost, insurance and freight value basis, and review current legislation to provide revenue collecting agencies with more power to enforce compliance.

The Government is also planning to close loopholes in BVI tax and fee structures and make sure that fees cover the costs of providing services. From 2016, a tourist arrival levy will be introduced.

Friday, December 19, 2014

BVI Maintains Leading Position as to Company Incorporations Activity

Global provider of offshore legal, fiduciary and administration services Appleby has published On the Register report, which provides information on company incorporations in offshore jurisdictions in the first half of 2014.

According to the report, total number of company registrations increased in offshore jurisdictions by 4%, compared to the previous six month period, and made 46,455 new companies. The British Virgin Islands remains dominating jurisdiction as to the volume of new company incorporations: in the first half of the year, 25,533 new companies were registered in the jurisdiction, which is a 6% increase on the previous six months. The BVI maintains far ahead of its follower – the Cayman Islands, which had the largest increase in new company incorporations in this period.

By words of Farah Ballands, Partner and Global Head of Fiduciary & Administration Services at Appleby, “This year is off to an encouraging start, with levels of active companies on the offshore company registers continuing to hold steady.”

Friday, November 14, 2014

New Members of the Board Appointed to BVI Financial Services Commission

Five new Commissioners have been appointed to the Board of the BVI FSC, effective 1 October 2014. The new members Ms. Denise Reovan, Mr. Ian Smith, Mr. Richard Peters and external Commissioners, Mr. Jonathan Fietcher and Mr. Edward Price will join Chairman Mr. Robin Gaul, Deputy Chairman Mr. Colin O’Neal and Managing Director/CEO of the FSC Mr. Robert Mathavious.

The newly appointed Commissioners replace previous members of the Board Ms. Eleanor Smith, Mr. E. Walwyn Brewley and Mr. Phillip Fenty whose appointments had expired. The Financial Services Commission Act, 2001 provides for the appointment of two external Commissioners to be appointed from outside the jurisdiction.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

BVI recognized as Major Offshore Centre in International Reports

The British Virgin Islands jurisdiction has been named the top offshore centre in the Global Financial Centres Index – the 16th survey of more than 3,500 international financial services professionals. Also, already for the fifth year, BVI became the most important offshore jurisdiction according to the Offshore 2020 report, which is a survey of 300 senior financial industry stakeholders from many countries. The BVI was ranked in the 47th place – the highest among offshore centres. Gibraltar is in the 53rd place, Cayman Islands and Bermuda are 54th and 58th, respectively.

The fifth Offshore 2020 report stated that offshore industry has emerged during this year, featuring better regulation, more transparency and higher degree of professionalism. It was noted in the report also that offshore centres continue to struggle with reputation and regulation, and for all of them, ratings lowered since the last Global Financial Centre Index 15. The report also highlights recognition of the offshore industry role in the global financial supply chain, including international trade, capital efficiency and asset management.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

UK Minister for OTs Leaves his Post

In the beginning of this week, the UK MP and Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Office Mark Simmonds announced that he is leaving his post. He claimed that the decision to resign from the Government is based on family reasons and not related to any political issues. The reason for leaving named by the Minister is that his salary and parliamentary allowances were not enough to let him bring his family and children to London from Lincolnshire.

He quits his post in the Foreign Office immediately, and plans to leave Parliament after the next elections, to spend more time with his family. 

Since 2012 and until the current moment, Mark Simmonds has been officially responsible for the Overseas Territories, including the British Virgin Islands.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Heads of UK Overseas Territories Discussed Important Issues in CI

Last week, a meeting of leaders of UK overseas territories including Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and Montserrat was held in the Cayman Islands. This pre-Joint Ministerial Council Meeting last for two days, during which the heads of government exchanged opinions on the issues of relationship between the UK and OTs, and also defined the priority areas to be included on the agenda of the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) meeting which will take place in London in the end of 2014.

British Virgin Islands Premier Dr Orlando Smith commented, “I am pleased that leaders of the OTs were able to reach consensus on a number of areas that are relevant to all OTs and on which we should engage further dialogue with the UK in the fall of 2014.” He also noted that matters related to financial services will be of the top priority for the Overseas Territories’ engagement with the UK. 

Among the key issues discussed there were economic diversification, global standards for financial regulation accountability and transparency, governance, environment, and others. Financial services being one of the key industries for most of the Overseas Territories, including BVI and Cayman Islands, their leaders affirmed that they aim the global standards of financial regulation, accountability and transparency, and will continue to be responsible financial centres that facilitate global trade and investment.

The JMC meeting in December 2014, which is being hosted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and will bring together political leaders and representatives of the UK and OT leaders, will have the purpose to implement principles listed in the 2012 White Paper on Security, Success and Sustainability, and to agree at the ministerial level on collective issues between OT governments and UK.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

BVI Premier Signed FATCA-related Agreement

The Model 1B intergovernmental agreement (IGA) was signed by the government of the BVI at the Department of Treasury in Washington, DC. According to BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith who signed the IGA, this is the final step in the current phase of Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) implementation in the British Virgin Islands. Next phase will be creation and issuance of guidance notes that assist financial institutions and other parties in the jurisdiction to determine their requirements under the agreement.

BVI Financial Secretary Neil Smith stated among the key benefits of the IGA that BVI financial institutions have until the end of 2014 to obtain a global intermediary identification number (GIIN)

The BVI government will issue a draft of the territory’s guidance notes to receive comments from members of the financial services industry. It will be possible to give feedback on the guidance notes also through participating in workshops that will be provided for the industry specialists by KPMG (BVI) Limited. After making sure that the guidance notes will adequately address any BVI-specific situations, they will be updated and amended.

FATCA was enacted in 2010 by the US Government, with the main purpose to combat tax evasion by some US citizens holding their investments in accounts outside of the United States, and requires foreign financial institutions to report to the IRS information on assets of US$50,000 or more held by US taxpayers.

Monday, July 07, 2014

TIEA Signed by BVI and Japan

In June, the BVI government announced the signing of tax information exchange agreement (TIEA) with Japan. The new TIEA, which became 26th tax agreement for the jurisdiction, will come into force on the thirtieth day after completion of the domestic implementation procedures by both parties. In the British Virgin Islands, TIEAs are implemented through subsidiary legislation under the Mutual Legal Assistance (Tax Matters) Act, 2003

The BVI-Japan TIEA complies with OECD standards for these agreements, providing for assistance through the exchange of information concerning taxes covered by the TIEA. For BVI, the competent authority is the Financial Secretary or an authority designated by him in writing, for example, the International Tax Authority, and for Japan the competent authority is the Minister of Finance or his authorized representative.

Monday, June 30, 2014

BVI and CI as Main Offshore Jurisdictions for Chinese Capital

In the South China Morning Post publication, BVI and Cayman Islands were named the main offshore hubs for China, which get the largest part of Chinese investments in the Caribbean region. The US government body informs that of US$62.1 billion in outward direct investment flows by 2012, all but US$282 million went to these two jurisdictions, while all the other Caribbean countries received only US$31 million.

By the scale of the fund flows, the British Virgin Islands has become the second-largest destination for mainland Chinese overseas direct investment after Hong Kong, being the preferred offshore tool for structuring investments into and out of Asia. 

According to the report published by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, in 2010, British Virgin Islands companies were responsible for US$111 billion, or 10 per cent, of foreign direct investment in China. Chinese companies invested US$69 billion overseas, of which 75% was handled by companies domiciled in the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Hong Kong. In 2012, FDI flows to the British Virgin Islands reached US$2.24 billion, while the stock of these investments amounted to US$30.85 billion.

Last year’s opening of BVI House Asia in Hong Kong facilitated the increase in fund flows. The review commission stated that China's ties with the Caribbean had strengthened over the decade, and are likely to continue expansion.

Monday, June 23, 2014

BVI FSC Issued Regular Quarterly Statistical Bulletin

Last week, the thirty-fourth volume of the BVI FSC Quarterly Statistical Bulletin was issued by the Commission, providing statistics and analysis about financial services industry in the BVI jurisdiction for the first quarter of 2014. According to the Registry of Corporate Affairs, the number of companies incorporated in this period increased to 14,062, from 11, 376 in the fourth quarter of 2013, the number of Private Trusts was 54 in the first quarter of 2014 (48 in Q4 2013 and 30 in Q1 2013), and there were 28 Limited Partnerships registered (24 in Q4 2013 and 15 in Q1 2013). At March 31, 2014, cumulative number of incorporations was 482,087, including all active companies.

According to the statistics provided by Investment Business industry, in this period 3 new Investment Business licences and 9 Approved Investment Managers licences were granted. In the Mutual Funds sector, 21 professional and 4 private licences were granted in the first quarter of 2014 (33 and 5 licences, respectively, in the previous quarter). 

In Insurance industry, 3 new licences were granted to captive insurers in the first quarter; cumulatively there were 143 captive insurers and 37 domestic insurers as at 31 March 2014.

By Legal and Enforcement and International Co-operation statistics, in the reported period there were 24 International Co-operation Matters requiring the disclosure of non-public information, 10 International Co-operation Matters requiring the disclosure of public information, and 32 Enforcement Matters. Among the ongoing Supervision Matters Referred to Licensing and Supervisory Committee in Q1 2014, there were 96 Banking and Fiduciary Services matters, 191 Investment Business matters, 99 related to Insurance, and 3 to Insolvency Services industry.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Role of BVI Financial Centre Discussed at China Offshore Summit

BVI House Asia made the presentation named ‘BVI 2.0 – Taking it to the Next Level’, during the China Offshore Summit which was held in Beijing from May 28 to 29, and was visited by more than 300 financial intermediaries, corporate service providers, international trust companies, bankers and lawyers from China. During the presentation, the director of BVI House Asia Elise Donovan spoke about the BVI companies’ use in China and their role today in facilitating cross-border transactions in the market.

British Virgin Islands, as one of the leading financial centres for international investments, remains the top jurisdiction for inward and outward FDI flows in China. It is a connecting link for East and West markets, assisting Chinese companies to access Western capital or technology through acquisitions and listings on foreign stock exchanges. 

Another presentation was made by Harney Westwood & Riegels’ Asia managing partner Jonathan Culshaw, under the name ‘Same same… but Different, Differences between BVI and Cayman Companies’. He outlined advantages of both offshore jurisdictions, among them flexibility in structuring, neutrality, and legal and professional competence in the China/Asia market, but noted that “the BVI is better value for money.”

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Ralph O’Neal Leaves Political Scene

Last week, BVI Opposition leader Ralph O'Neal announced that he is going to retire from public service and political life. He is the longest serving elected politician in BVI history, with more than 38 years of working in the House of Assembly and Legislative Council. Also, he has been the head of the elected government for combined 12 years, which is the second longest period in the jurisdiction, following Lavity Stout whom he succeeded in 1995.

Ralph O’Neal was the first person to be appointed to the newly titled Premier office in 2007, under the newly adopted constitution. He left the post in November 2011, after the Virgin Islands Party lost its majority after the general elections. At present, he is the leader of the opposition already in the third time – a record among BVI politicians.

BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith made a statement following the opposition leader’s announcement, where he recognized on behalf of the government and people of the BVI the invaluable contributions O’Neal has made to the development of the territory.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

BVI Premier Meets Overseas Territories Officials at COCTC

BVI Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr Orlando Smith, has returned from the meeting of the Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories Council (COCTC) which took place in Montserrat from May 15-16 and had the purpose to discuss the regional programming for the 11th European Development Fund (EDF).

On the meeting, the BVI Premier encouraged members of the Council, which included officials from the Caribbean British and Dutch Overseas Territories of Anguilla, Turks and Caicos Islands, St Maarten, Curacao, Montserrat, and the British Virgin Islands, to strengthen the level of cooperation, and to assess jointly the political, economic and social situations in the Caribbean region.

The Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories Council was established in April 2012 for discussions aimed at strengthening regional cooperation, enhancing international cooperation, sharing resources and addressing issues of mutual interest and concern among Caribbean Overseas Territories.

Friday, May 16, 2014

BVI and USVI Government Officials Met at Inter-Virgin Islands Council

During the meeting of government officials of the British Virgin Islands and United States Virgin Islands on the sixth Inter-Virgin Islands Council on May 8, the areas of shared interests were discussed by the parties, as well as initiatives to strengthen ties between the jurisdictions. The council launched updates and developments on law enforcement, tourism, in the sphere of education, and many others.

The BVI delegation included permanent secretaries and relevant senior officers and was headed by the Premier and minister of finance, Dr Orlando Smith. Representation of the British Virgin Islands government at the Inter-Virgin Islands Council meeting reaffirmed its commitment to strengthen regional and international relations, and maintain close ties with the United States Virgin Islands. 

The Inter-Virgin Islands Council was established in 2004, by signing the memorandum of understanding by BVI Chief Minister Dr Orlando Smith and former USVI Governor Dr Charles Turnbull. The first meeting of the Council was held in April 2005, on St Croix.