Friday, May 13, 2016

BVI Premier Speaks about Territory’s Financial Services Industry

In a media release published on May 9, 2016, BVI Premier Dr D Orlando Smith said to the people and businesses of the British Virgin Islands that they must not worry about the uncertainty regarding the financial services industry in the jurisdiction. The statement came just before the UK government’s major Anti-Corruption Summit particularly devoted to financial services. 

The Premier and Minister of finance of the British Virgin Islands said: “... the midst of today’s uncertain environment, our financial services industry remains strong and our commitment to it is rock solid. We are one of the world’s leading financial centres and will continue to be so for the future… In partnership with industry, we remain focused on what matters most – creating value for all industry stakeholders including businesses, investors, service providers and the people of the BVI.” 

At the same time, the leaked documents of the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca proved that the BVI was the single largest jurisdiction for company registrations and questionable operations of the law firm. The BVI government has said it was not aware of anything on the part of Mossack Fonseca, and ordered a “thorough investigation” on this case. About 60 per cent of BVI annual revenues come from financial services sector.

Friday, April 29, 2016

BVI Published Information on Beneficial Ownership Agreement with UK

BVI has published the notes and technical protocols related to the exchange of information on beneficial ownership of companies agreed with the United Kingdom. According to this agreement, the countries agreed to share beneficial ownership information, and also committed to ensuring relevancy, accuracy and security of this information.

In the British Virgin Islands, this information is to be held through the electronic portal which will be accessed by BVI authorities only. On request, it will be shared with UK law enforcement agencies. The BVI law enforcement authorities will be able to request from UK law enforcement all of its non-public information on beneficial ownership.

By words of BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith, the agreement with UK will “further enhance the BVI regime which already surpasses that of many other jurisdictions in the world. It will also ensure that in order to protect our business and the interests of BVI, when it comes to transparency and information exchange, BVI’s rules and regulations are totally fit for purpose.”

Monday, April 18, 2016

BVI Meets International Standards on Beneficial Ownership

On 11 April, British Prime Minister David Cameron made the statement in the House of Commons, having commended the BVI and other Overseas Crown Dependencies for enhancing co-operation with the United Kingdom, especially in the areas related to beneficial ownership and international exchange of tax information. The statement was welcomed by BVI Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Orlando Smith as reinforcing the BVI’s long-standing commitment to international standards on tax and transparency and to maintaining its robust regulatory regime.

A week earlier, the UK and the jurisdiction agreed to sign an exchange of notes on beneficial ownership between the countries, setting their mutual commitment to exchange beneficial ownership information between law enforcement agencies for the detection and prevention of criminal matters. This agreement may be considered as complementary to BVI’s good standing in meeting international commitments on tax, transparency and anti-corruption under Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the United Nations (UN).

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

BVI Faces Consequences of ‘Panama Papers’ Leak

BVI authorities said that the leak of confidential data from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca specializing in offshore financial services, which included about 11 million documents, prompted them to look for any breaches of financial regulations in the Caribbean territory. BVI-registered companies play the most important role in the leaked records, the same way as BVI takes its prominent place in the global offshore financial industry.

BVI financial regulating services have issued a statement where they say that they will ‘pursue a thorough investigation through the BVI's competent authorities, and further action will be taken, where necessary’.

Last year, there were 9,388 company incorporations in the BVI, down from 11,436 the previous year. The BVI is said to have ‘rigorous’ regulatory oversight of its financial sector and adhere to international standards.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Statutory Deadlines Extended for BVI Financial Institutions

The BVI Financial Account Reporting System will be ready to accept UK CDOT or UK FATCA filings by May 2, 2016. BVI Financial Institutions have been informed of this fact, and they can submit their reports to the International Tax Authority as of this date and no later than the extended dates which are as follows: the statutory deadline for registration with the Tax Authority is extended from April 1 to June 10, and the statutory deadline to submit 2014 and 2015 reportable accounts to the ITA is extended from May 31 to July 29.

The extended deadlines relate only to reportable accounts submitted via BVI Financial Account Reporting System. Concerning the Alternative Reporting Regime (ARR) under UK CDOT and UK FATCA, the original statutory deadline remains the same.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

BVI Budget Debate Starting on Tuesday

BVI Territory's largest proposed budget debate is to start on March 22, more than month after being presented by BVI Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Orlando Smith, and after weeks of meeting where parliamentarians examined the budget for the 2016 fiscal year; also, Accounting officers participated in these meetings, discussing plans for the ministries and departments. The meetings have finished, and now both the government and opposition sides will take part in the budget debate, which will be followed by the approval of the proposed budget, possibly with changes.

In his budget speech, the premier announced new tax measures which will make people pay more for work permits and water supply, and, along with new legislation enforcing compliance, will enable the government to collect over US$20mln in revenues. He said, however, that these new tax measures ‘will not have any great effect on the citizens of the BVI’. The opposition responded to this statement, saying that the tax increases are being proposed at a time when more people have less.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

UK and BVI Delegations Meet to Discuss Common Strategies against Financial Crimes

On February 25-26, senior representatives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the National Crime Agency and Serious Fraud Office (SFO) visited the British Virgin Islands, being invited by premier and minister of finance Dr Orlando Smith to engage in further discussions on strengthening legal framework to fight cross-border financial crimes in the UK and BVI.

The UK delegation included director of the FCO’s Overseas Territories Directorate, Dr Peter Hayes; FCO’s senior policy adviser, economic and financial services, Russell Phillips; and the NCA’s head of bribery, corruption and sanctions, Andy Lewis. The BVI delegation consisted of the premier and representatives from the ministry of finance, Attorney General’s Chambers, Financial Investigation Agency, Financial Services Commission and International Tax Authority.

Discussions focused on how law enforcement agencies can further build upon their relationship to provide an effective beneficial ownership regime. During the meeting, the UK delegation learned about the ongoing reform processes in the British Virgin Islands to strengthen the territory’s international cooperation. The strategies were discussed to engage in ongoing dialogue to build confidence and cooperation against cross border criminal activities.

Friday, February 12, 2016

BVI Premier Presented Budget for This Year

British Virgin Islands Premier and Minister of Finance Dr D Orlando Smith presented BVI budget for the current fiscal year, of just over US$330 million. The budget of the previous year was US$311 million. The budget of fiscal year 2016 is one of the largest budgets presented by any of governments in the region, and the first since Smith’s party won in general elections held this year.

On February 8, BVI Premier presented his budget speech in the House of Assembly, where stated that projections for recurrent spending have been placed at $286,512,400, in addition to projected revenues of exactly $330,846,500.

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.”