British Virgin Islands Business News

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

Friday, May 10, 2019

BVI FSC Issued Statistical Bulletin for Q4 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, April 29, 2019

2019 Budget Passed by the House of Assembly

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

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

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

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Friday, April 05, 2019

BVI Government investing into BVI Health Services Authority

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

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

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

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Friday, March 29, 2019

CDB Issued Regional Report and Economic Forecast for 2018-2019

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

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

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Monday, March 18, 2019

BVI Premier Initiates Forensic Audit of Finances

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

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

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Saturday, March 09, 2019

New Ministers Appointed by BVI Premier

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

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

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

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Friday, March 01, 2019

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

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

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

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Friday, February 22, 2019

BVI FSC Issued Statistical Bulletin for Q3 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, February 15, 2019

BVI will Choose New Premier, Political Parties are to Adhere to Code of Conduct

Political parties which will participate in the general elections in the British Virgin Islands on February 25, 2019, as well as the general public, are asked to strictly adhere to the provisions of the Code of Conduct. According to the statement of the BVI government, “The Code of Conduct now exists for political parties and candidates with the 2019 amendment to the Elections Act now in force. The purpose of the code is to promote conditions that are conducive to free and fair elections, and a climate of tolerance in which electioneering activity may take place without fear or coercion, intimidation or reprisals.”

The code consisting of 11 clauses covers the following areas: politically-motivated violence or intimidation, prohibited conduct: conduct during polling period, announcements of results of elections and respect for media and journalists. 

During the elections, the new political leader will be chosen for the BVI, as Orlando Smith has retired from his post of the territory’s premier. Mr. Smith’s National Democratic Party (NDP) has fractured, opening the possibility for a new party, the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement, to enter the government after long years of the NDP and the Virgin Islands Party domination. The VIP also fractured after the 2015 elections: Andrew Fahie will lead the VIP, while Julian Fraser split to form his own party, the Progressives United.

The new BVI government will face many issues, including the BVI financial sector challenges and the possibility of being potentially blacklisted by the European Union and being subject to the recently implemented UK beneficial ownership rules.

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Friday, February 08, 2019

CPA British Islands & Mediterranean Region Invited to Conduct Election Observation Mission in BVI

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association British Islands and Mediterranean Region (CPA BIMR) was invited by the BVI Governor with approval of the BVI Premier and Leader of the Opposition to conduct an Election Observation Mission (EOM) to the British Virgin Islands in 2019

The Mission will observe political campaign, electoral administration, polling and other aspects of BVI elections against international standards, commitments and obligations, as well as BVI legislation. It will issue a preliminary report with initial results within two days upon the elections, and the closing result, which will include recommendations for possible electoral reform, within two months after the elections.

The mission will consist of six members, all of them from different countries, and will be supported by a core team of an election coordinator and two election specialist analysts.

CPA BIMR is one of the nine regions of the network, with its headquarters based in the UK Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Since 2011, the association has been organising short-term Election Observer Missions across the UK Overseas Territories including the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands and Jersey. It was also involved in election assessment during the UK General Elections.

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

UK Government Extending Deadline for Public Registers in BVI

The UK government has given its Overseas Territories including the British Virgin Islands an allowance to continue without implementing the public registers of company beneficial ownership until the year 2023. In fact this is a 3 year extension to the initial deadline set by the United Kingdom in its Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act, which was forcing to implement public registers by the year 2020.

UK Minister responsible for OTs, Lord Tariq Ahmad, gave his comments about the deadline extension: “It is our intention that if by 2020 there is no public register, for whatever territory, we will then issue an Order in Council, which will then have a requirement for an operational public register by 2023.” By his words, the 2023 deadline will give the UK time to advance its mission of making public registers become a global standard

The public registers mean that the BVI along with other Overseas Territories will be required to disclose the names of beneficial owners of offshore companies registered in the jurisdictions. The BVI is objecting the implementation of public registers before they become a global standard, as it would place the territory in a disadvantageous position to other countries providing financial services.

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Monday, January 07, 2019

BVI Passes The Economic Substance (Companies and Limited Partnerships) Act

According to the announcement of BVI Premier and minister of finance, Dr Orlando Smith, the territory has passed The Economic Substance (Companies and Limited Partnerships) Act, 2018, which came into force on January 1, 2019. This is an important legislation addressing the EU’s concerns over “economic substance”, ahead of the December 31 deadline set by the European union for the British Virgin Islands and other financial centres.

In his comments BVI Premier said: “The government has engaged closely with EU officials over the last 18 months to understand and address the concerns that have been raised and has consulted on a regular basis with representatives of the financial services industry. Dialogue with the industry will continue to ensure smooth implementation of the new requirements and the International Tax Authority is issuing a guidance note to accompany the new Act.” 

Also, the BVI government admitted that the legislation will create challenges for some companies and limited partnerships, mostly due to the compressed timeline. It is expected that the formal response of the European Union will be given after some months.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

BVI Government Approved Bill on the Issue of Economic Substance

BVI Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Orlando Smith announced that the BVI Government has taken measures to respond to the EU’s listing of non-cooperative jurisdictions, and will take reasonable steps to address EU economic concerns. The government approved the Bill , which is planned to be considered in the House of Assembly on December 13, and to come into effect by December 31, 2018, which is the EU deadline.

The new legislation will provide further assurance which was required from the BVI on the issue of ‘economic substance’. It is to introduce economic substance requirements for all business companies and LPs which are registered and tax resident in the British Virgin Islands.

Every corporate service provider will have to know where the company or limited partnership is tax resident and must be ready to provide that information to the BVI’s competent authorities. If tax resident in the BVI, they must show ‘economic substance’. Companies or LPs must, in relation to any relevant activity, carry out core income generating activities in BVI. Among them are: banking business, insurance business, fund management business, finance and leasing business, headquarters business, shipping business, holding business, intellectual property business, and distribution and service centre business.

For the last months, the BVI government had regular consultations with representatives of financial services industry, to address the concerns, and will continue dialogue for smooth implementation of the new requirements.

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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Premier Announced New Ministerial Appointments in BVI Government

This week, BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith appointed honourable Marlon Penn as the new Minister of Health and Social Development, and Honourable Hubert O’Neal as the new Junior Minister of Tourism. This happened after Ronnie Skelton was revoked from his post as Minister of Health and Social Development, and Archibald Christian lost his post of Junior Minister of Tourism.

Ronnie Skelton was terminated in his post after he reportedly told to local media that his was the leader of the breakaway political party known as the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement. This was named by Premier as a ‘clear conflict of interest’, as it is impossible to stay a member of Cabinet and form own party at the same time. The similar reason was for firing Archibald Christian from his post. 

Also, Second District Representative Melvin Turnbull, who wrote to the Speaker of the House of Assembly last week requesting to be seated on the Opposition side of parliament, left the NDP government. Christian and Turnbull have already announced their alliance with Progressive Virgin Islands Movement.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Director for Overseas Territories Paying Visit to BVI

The director for Overseas Territories in Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ben Merrick made a four day visit to the British Virgin Islands, during which he was focusing on governance, financial services of the territory, and the post-hurricane recovery. He was talking with the BVI Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Orlando Smith, the Cabinet, the leader of the opposition and representatives of the financial services industry.

One of the main purposes of the visit is to evaluate the influence of financial and technical support from the UK to the BVI after hurricanes, and to discuss further funding and loan guarantees for BVI recovery and development. Government departments and agencies visited by Merrick include the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, the Department of Disaster Management, the BVI Ports Authority, the BVI Airports Authority and the Recovery and Development Agency.

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Friday, October 26, 2018

BVI Offshore Law Firm Launched New York City Office

O-Neal Webster, full-service law firm headquartered in Tortola, BVI, in October announced its expansion to New York City, New York. It became the first BVI law firm to establish physical presence in the city; it also has an office in London, UK.

The newly established office in NY is headed by Kerry Anderson, former O’Neal Webster Managing Partner and the head of law firm’s Investment Funds and Regulatory Department. The office will provide advice on BVI law in investment funds and finance, corporate and commercial, property, business, trusts and estates, insolvency and restructuring. By words of the head of NY office, seminars and events will be regularly hosted there, to highlight the benefits of doing business with and in the BVI, the world’s leading jurisdiction for company incorporations.

The office will serve both US and global clients; US client base of the BVI firm includes major law and accounting firms, fund managers, family offices and many others.

BVI Finance Executive Director Lorna G. Smith commented: “O’Neal Webster’s opening of an office in New York, the global hub of international finance, is a significant milestone for the firm and the entire BVI jurisdictionFor the first time, clients will receive advice on BVI funds and private client activities directly within the U.S., thereby facilitating the speed and effectiveness for entering global capital markets. We are very proud of our member firm’s accomplishment.” 

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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

BVI FSC Published New Amendment Order to BVI Business Companies Act

The BVI Financial Services Commission has published BVI Business Companies Act Amendment Order, which came into force on 1 September 2018, and which reduced maximum penalty for late filing of Registers of Directors from US$8,000 to US$5,000. Also, the Order provided for the issue of refund in cases where penalty over US$5,000 was previously applied, and the refund process was already started.

BVI Business Companies that were incorporated before 1 April 2016 were given time until 31 March 2017 to file Registers of Directors at the Registry of Corporate Affairs, and prior to the amendment BVI BCs that failed to file them were subjected to escalating penalty fees.

The registrar is authorized by this Amendment Order to strike existing companies from the Register if they fail to file RODs by the deadline of 31 December 2018, and the companies will need to pay all penalties and fees in order to be restored.

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Friday, September 21, 2018

First BVI Africa Trade Mission to be Held in November 2018

BVI Premier and Minister of finance, Dr Orlando Smith, will be leading BVI Africa Trade Mission which will take place for two weeks from November 5 to 16 of 2018, and will include South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria as the largest business centres in the region. The BVI has a considerable stock of direct investments on the continent, and it is expected that the visit will enhance and deepen business relationships between BVI and African countries.

Dr Smith will be the head of the delegation which includes BVI Finance team and the Africa Expert Network (AXN), BVI Finance’s consultants for the mission. The mission itself is similar to the Asia Trade Mission and consists of high-level meetings with government officials and private sector meetings

The BVI mission will also hold three mini conferences in Cape Town, Nairobi and Lagos, which will provide an opportunity for the delegation to promote the products and services of the BVI jurisdiction, such as private equity and venture capital offerings, investment funds and trusts, as well as time proven BVI business companies and recently unveiled micro business company.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

BVI FSC Publishes AML Code and MBC Act Amendments

The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission issued two new additions to the regulatory and registration regime in the jurisdiction: An amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Code of Practice, 2008 (the “AML Code”) and the Micro Business Companies Act, 2017 (the “MBC Act”).

The first one focuses on supporting the use of digital services for customer identification and verification, which provides for global financial technology solutions. The amendment to the AML Code takes effect on 1 August 2018

For the Micro Business Companies Act, 2017, there is a new technology that focuses on easy and quick registration of MBCs. BVI FSC expanded its registration system VIRRGIN to provide a new MBC portal. It will be available to registered agents who can develop mobile applications and more efficiently manage and administer MBCs. The MBC Act has come into effect on 5 June 2018, and the registration regime is currently implemented.

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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.

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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.

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