Thursday, December 28, 2006

BVI FSC Statistical Bulletin for Q2 2006

Soon after the new site launch BVI Financial Services Comission has published the Statistical Bulletin for the second quarter of 2006. Although it is stated on the bulletin that publication month is July 2006, actually it became available on 20th December 2006.

Legal/Enforcement and International Co-operation Division stats shows 1 Advisory warning, 8 enforcement matters, international co-operation matters with 8 formal requests requiring disclosure of non-public information and 6 informal requests requiring disclosure of public information. Division also provided advice to internal Division of the Comission in over 115 cases.

The Insolvency Services Division activities resulted in no change in the total number of BVI insolvency practitioners in the first quarter of 2006, however the Division licensed one new insolvency practitioner and revoked one licence.

BVI FSC statistics confirms that BVI is conservative banking jurisdiction having only 9 banking licences for banking operations in and from within the BVI. One new general banking licence was issued in the first quarter of 2006 and in total there were 6 General Banking licences and 3 Restricted Class 1 Banking licences on the 31st March 2006.

As regards Fiduciary services – at the end of the first quarter 2006 there were licenced 98 General Trust (3 new) and 103 Restricted Trust (2 new) services providers, 4 Authorised Custodians (1 new) and 107 Registered Agents. Also 1 new Company Management licence was issued totalling to 20 Company Management licences.

Investment Business stats confirms that the most popular type of funds constituted in the BVI is professional funds, and their number in the jurisdiction is still increasing. The 46% increase in the number of professional funds was fixed in the first quarter of 2006, if compared to the same quarter of 2005, and a 54% increase, compared to the previous quarter.

The first private fund was re-registered as a Segregated Portfolio Company in the reported period. It was soon after the Segregated Portfolio Companies Regulations were officially published on 22 December 2005. Totally there were 189 Segregated Portfolio Companies at the end of the first quarter 2006.

Insurance sector stats shows that 6 new Captive Insurers were licenced in Q1 2006.

The largest statistical figures reflect the activities at the Registry of Corporate affairs. Looking at stats we should take into consideration that starting from 1 January 2006 only BVI Business Companies were registered. Previously the most popular BVI company type was BVI IBC (International Business Company), but after new legislation passed the new companies are named BVI BC's (Business Companies). 17,892 new BVI Business Companies were incorporated in the first quarter of 2006. It is more than for the same period in 2005 when 15,772 BVI IBC's were registered. Number of dissolutions for Q1 2006 is 1,141.

The total number of BVI International Business Companies was 689,555, but the number of BVI Business Companies was 19,421 at the 31 March 2006. In total it is 708,976 world’s most popular business entities incorporated for international business.

Friday, December 22, 2006

BVI FDI in the Hong Kong: New Statistics, Facts and Figures

On December 18, the Census and Statistics Department has released the statistics on Hong Kong's Gross National Product (GNP) and External Factor Income Flows (EFIF) for the third quarter of 2006. The figures in general confirm the previous Foreign Direct Investment ratings and tendencies for Hong Kong published some days ago, and analysed in the previous blogposts.

According to the new preliminary statistics for the 3rd quarter 2006, the total factor income inflow into Hong Kong made $158.2 billion in the 3rd quarter of 2006, and increased markedly by 29.5% if compared to this period of 2005. Within total factor income inflow, the Direct Investment Income increased very little – just by 26.7% over the year 2005; the reason for this rise were generally increased earnings of some prominent local enterprises from foreign investments.

Analysing by country or territory, the largest source of Hong Kong's external factor income inflow in the third quarter 2006 is still China Mainland, its stock accounts for 27.9% of the total amount. The second position is again occupied by the British Virgin Islands, with a share of 18.7%. The other major direct investors were the US, with 11.0%, and the UK, with 7.2%.

The British Virgin Islands, along with the Mainland, were also the most important places for Hong Kong's external factor income outflow. In the third quarter of 2006, the stock of the British Virgin Islands made 15.4% of the total amount, while the stock of China Mainland was just some 6% higher and made 21.7%. Other major investors from this list are the Netherlands, at 11.3%, and the US, at 10.8%.

I have compiled the information on dynamics of BVI and China Mainland foreign direct investments to Hong Kong in the table below:

Period (Qtr)Total ($M)BVI ($M)(%)China ($M)(%)
2004 4th111,42922,86620.52%29,52926.50%
2005 1st113,84624,24721.30%28,59325.12%
2005 2nd132,00834,81126.37%36,12927.37%
2005 3rd122,16627,29222.34%30,65225.09%
2005 4th135,94426,86019.76%39,40028.98%
2006 1st*149,20928,16518.88%42,41928.43%
2006 2nd*163,84029,49218.00%51,44431.40%
2006 3rd*158,24329,62018.72%44,19627.93%


$=Hong Kong Dollar

* Preliminary data

As we can see from the table in the last 2 years the level of BVI foreign direct investments to Hong Kong was increasing from quarter to quarter (except one extreme peak at the 2nd quarter of 2005). The fact that in percentage terms the part of BVI direct investments in 2006 is lower than in 2005 can be generally explained with the increase of direct foreign investments from Mainland China. Other countries have substantially lower % of FDI in Hong Kong.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hong Kong FDI Statistics for 2005: Leading Positions of the British Virgin Islands

We have already discussed stable positions of BVI as the second largest foreign investor for Hong Kong and in the China, as well as the fact that Hong Kong and China remain the most important foreign investors for each other. The statistics for Direct Investment inflow and outflow for Hong Kong in 2005, published by the Census & Statistics Department, has confirmed the high ratings of the British Virgin Islands in this region.

First of all, the Census & Statistics Department has stated that both the market value of the stocks of inward and outward direct investment in Hong Kong rose significantly in 2005. The market value of Hong Kong's inward direct investment rose 15.2% on 2004 to $4.056 trillion last year, with the ratio to GDP at 293%. Hong Kong's outward direct investment also rose 16.6% to $3.654 trillion, with the ratio to GDP at 264%.

The stocks of inward and outward direct investment amounted to more than 2.5 times the size of Hong Kong's GDP each. This substantial size of investments has emphasized the status of Hong Kong as an international financial centre and regional business headquarters.

The British Virgin Islands accounted the second largest share of the total amount of inward direct investment in Hong Kong's economy. At the end of last year it took up 31.3% of the total stock, and this is just 0.1% less than the amount of direct investment inflow from the Mainland. The Netherlands are in the third place, with 8.1% of the total stock of inward direct investment in Hong Kong's economy. Other major investors are Bermuda with 6.7%, and the US, with 5.1% of the total.

On outward direct investment, the British Virgin Islands, with 44% of the total stock of investments, remained the most popular offshore destination for indirect channelling of direct investment funds. China Mainland remained the most important destination for Hong Kong's outward direct investment, with 40.4% of the total amount.

In 2005 the British Virgin Islands remained also the second major supplier of Hong Kong's direct investment inflow. The investment amount of the BVI made $47 billion, while China Mainland was the most important direct investor with $72.9 billion. In general, if analysed by economic activity, the largest share of the total direct investment inflow in 2005 was made by those engaged in real estate, investment holding and various business services.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Team BVI Members, Part I

The launch of 'Team BVI' was announced more than a month ago. The readers of my blog already know 3 members of Team BVI - Humphry A. Leue, Hon Dr. Kedrick Pickering and
Mark Chapman
. Since the Team BVI has commenced to perform its functions, there were several arrangements where Team BVI members played very important role. I mentioned the seminar for London-based executives in the mutual fund industries and the meeting of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council. Today I would like to tell more details on the other members of Team BVI. In this connection I would like to thank the BVI International Finance Centre who kindly provided the list of all Team BVI members.

Mrs. Lorna Smith, another outstanding personality representing BVI government in the Team BVI, is the Executive Director of the BVI International Affairs Secretariat. Her focus area is International & Public Affairs. In April 2004 she was appointed Director Designate of the BVI Government’s London Office and took very active role in representing the interests of the BVI in London and Europe, popularizing BVI, it’s culture and services. BVI London office actively worked on a number of areas including Media Relations, Marketing and Brand, and relationship with Her Majesty's Government.

Mrs. Smith has found time to familiarize the House of Lords and the House of Commons with the BVI and successfully promoted BVI territory, which earlier was quite little known in London. As a Director of the BVI London office she suggested an idea to create "Friends of the BVI" group in parliamentary circles in London, and this idea was sucesfully implemented. She also actively worked with British Virgin Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group, registered in the UK in late 2004 when Mrs. Lorna Smith was Interim Director of the BVI London office.

At that time of her being in this post she also contacted with many prominent persons who later contributed much to the popularization of the British Virgin Islands. Among them there is such person as Sir Richard Branson, known for his support in promoting BVI.

Mrs. Smith also organized roadshows and other marketing activities aimed to popularisation of BVI financial services all over the globe. We should thank BVI London Office headed by Lorna Smith for launching a website providing one of the most comprehensive and regularly published BVI news.

After one year of very active work at the post of the director of BVI London Office she was followed by Ms Hadassah Ward and then by Ms Dawn Smith this summer. Lorna Smith returned to BVI and continued to work actively on BVI international relations as Executive Director of the BVI International Affairs Unit and BVI International Finance Centre.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New Legislative Acts Regulating BVI Business Companies Passed by BVI Legislative Council

British Virgin Islands Legislative Council has recently passed new legislative acts, amending the existing legislation. BVI Business Companies (Amendment) Act, 2006 amends the BVI Business Companies Act, 2004 (No. 16 of 2004) and adds certain miscellaneous provisions to the principal document. Several sections of the Act are amended; the section of the principal Act that concerns approval of forms by Commission is substituted, some changes are made in the licence fees. BVI Business Companies (Amendment) Act, 2006 was passed by the BVI Legislative Council on September 22, 2006.

Another legislative document is Company Management (Amendment) Act, 2006, amending the Company Management Act, 1990 (No. 8 of 1990). The provisions of this Act come into operation on January 15, 2007. The issues amended and replaced in the principal Act concern prohibition on unauthorized company management business, licence validity, fees, capital resource, disposing of or acquiring significant interest in licensee, exemption powers, approvals required, number of directors, preparation and submission of financial statements, auditing. The document was passed by the BVI Legislative Council on September 22, 2006.

Friday, December 08, 2006

BVI FSC Announces New Internet-Based Information System Launch

Some days ago the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission announced the establishment of a Company Law Review Advisory Committee, whose work will be connected with BVI offshore legislation. The new information released by the BVI FSC refers to the introduction of a new internet-based information system, featuring the electronic filing of documents. The announcement on this issue was made on 5 December 2006. FSC has informed that its existing registry and information system will be closed permanently.

The new “ Virtual Integrated Registry and Regulatory General Information Network'“ (VIRRGIN) will provide thorough electronic mechanism for handling, processing and receiving feedback on critical documents filed with the Registry of Corporate Affairs. It is stated in the press-release published by the Commission that the new system represents a “quantum leap” in the delivery of services provided by the Registry, and will make the processing of Registry documents more efficient, user friendly and fully electronic.

The new system will be launched in several phases. The first phase of the system will be delivered on 12 December 2006, for services provided by the Registry. In preparation for the transition, the access to the Registry's current online system will be permanently disabled at 3pm on Friday 8 December 2006.

BVI FSC regulator has noted that the BVI FSC is constantly seeking ways to better serve the industry, and this new system is another example of this vigilance. Actually, we may guess that the system will really improve service quality for industry practitioners and will be useful for clients.

The new internet information system is expected to require minimal end user computer resources and to be compatible with most systems. It will be subscription based and use will be complementary through February 28, 2007. After the completion of all phases of the system launch, it will have several new and improved features:

  • Electronic filing of documents;
  • Restricted access to licensed BVI based Registered Agents;
  • Email confirmation for documents received by Registry;
  • Online transaction queries for pending transactions;
  • Electronically generated and issued defective notices with transaction reference codes;
  • Electronically signed certificates and electronically stamped and returned M&As.
The BVI FSC is planning to issue additional information regarding the system and timelines through the end of the year.

PS BVI FSC has updated their website structure and design today.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Establishment of Company Law Review Advisory Committee Announced by BVI FSC

On December 1, 2006 the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission made an announcement that Executive Council acting on the advice of FSC has agreed to the Establishment of a Company Law Review Advisory Committee, pursuant to the provisions of the BVI Business Companies Act.

The Advisory Committee will keep the Business Companies Act (BCA) and other legislation relevant to company law as specified by the Commission. Another function of the Committee is also making recommendations for changes to the BCA. The Committee will also make recommendations to the Commission for development and reforming company law in the BVI.

The Committee includes wide range of persons with expertise and experience in many public spheres. The authority and reputation of Committee Members will make its deliberations especially valuable.

When looking for certain persons to be engaged in the work of the Committee, BVI Government and the Financial Services Commission had the purpose to ensure that both local and offshore interests are represented. Members are appointed for a period of three years.The appointments to the Committee from the Financial Services Commission are:

  • Managing Director (Chairman)
  • Director, Legal/ Enforcement
  • Registrar of Corporate Affairs
  • Director, Policy Research & Statistics
From BVI Government there are:
  • Representative from the Ministry of Finance
  • Representative from the A.G.’s Chambers
Following persons are deputed to the Advisory Committee from Private Sector:
  • Richard Peters (Harney’s)
  • Barry Goodman (Trident Trust Company)
  • Michael Fay (WSmiths)
  • Barbara O’Neal (O’Neal Webster)
  • Anthony Lynton (Maples & Calder)
  • Selina O’Neal (Equity Trust Company)
  • Ron Potter (Deloitte)
  • John Greenwood (Appleby Hunter Bailhache)
  • Glenroy A. Forbes (Forbes Hare)
  • Lewis Hunte (Hunte and Co.)
  • Gareth Thomas (Codan Trust Company (BVI) Ltd.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

BVI Deputy Governor’s Office website launched

Today the BVI Deputy Governor’s Office has launched a website providing information about itself, one of the oldest units in the history of Government in the British Virgin Islands, established in 1800s.

The newly launched website, contains information about office’s role, structure and management, history, news, resources for the public, a directory of publications and speeches as well as online helpdesk.

The Office of the Deputy Governor supports and facilitates the BVI Governor in the execution of his constitutional functions. The main services provided by BVI Deputy Governor’s Office are managing the Public Service by promoting top management co-operation and development within the government services; furnishing the Governor with the requisite information and advice as requested; managing the administration of the Sister Islands; ensuring that International Obligations are met in compliance with treaties, conventions and Organizations; authenticating public documents (executing Apostilles under the Hague Convention); maintaining relationships with International Organizations; coordinating the affairs of those who provide external and internal security to the Territory; and facilitating the administration of the Courts.

Other services provided by BVI Deputy Governor’s Office include providing efficient passport, visa, nationality, and citizenship services to the public in concerted effort with the Passport Services; supporting the conduct of voter registration and elections when due; as well as supporting the Governor as he exercises his powers and duties dictated by Constitution and legislation.

Mrs. Dancia Penn, OBE, Q.C., was appointed as Deputy Governor of the Virgin Islands in September 2004. In her comments she said, “The Deputy Governor’s Office is the oldest department of Government, and so it is especially exciting to see that we are modernising the way we share information with the public,” Deputy Governor Dancia Penn, Q.C., said. “I hope that everyone in our community will take the opportunity to become better informed by visiting this website now, and in the future.”

Otto O’Neal was appointed Permanent Secretary in the Deputy Governor’s Office in July 2005. He commented that website is in keeping with the Office’s commitment to improving its communication with the public. “We recognise that the public needs to know more about the services that we provide, the policies that we implement, and the way in which we work,” Mr. O’Neal said. “This website is a key component in our strategy to enhance our communication.”

Friday, December 01, 2006

Automated Processing System to be Implemented by Customs

On December 4, 2006, The Customs Department in the British Virgin Islands will start using the Customs Automated Processing System (CAPS) to process incoming passengers at the Terrence B. Lettsome International airport as part of the project’s implementation stage.

Comptroller of Customs, Mr. Wade Smith says that the use of CAPS will offer several benefits to the BVI. First of all, it could improve Custom’s efficiency in declaration processing and performing compliance audits. Then, CAPS will provide a database for collecting statistics for development planning. And it goes without saying that the new system will increase revenue and improve protection of the BVI.

According to Project Director, Shaina Smith, the contract with IBM (International Business Machines) included the design, development and implementation of both software and hardware in co-operation with the Ministry of Finance, Customs and Information Systems Unit.

The Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (Beef Island) situated 15 km from Road Town, Tortola, is the main airport serving the British Virgin Islands. So, now we can hope that both arrivals and departures from the BVI will take less time.

The Customs Automated Processing System is a business software solution developed by IBM that is used by customs administrations all over the world in order to computerise manual processes and to increase effectiveness and efficiency of the customs.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

BVI Keeps its Place in the Top List of Foreign Investors in HCM City

Ho Chi Minh City officials have reported on a four-fold increase in foreign direct investments in the city's economy. This year HCM City has so far licensed 215 foreign invested projects valued at US$1.37 billion. These figures include 163 wholly foreign-invested projects, with a combined investment capital of about US$768 million, 49 joint-venture projects with US$589 million, and three co-operative contracts that are worth over US$14 million.

The results confirmed strong positions of the British Virgin Islands, which were among the first five foreign investors' countries in Ho Chi Minh City during the first seven months of the year 2006. In accordance to the seven month results, the British Virgin Islands invested into the 7 projects, with US$36,5 million. Currently, being the investor of 10 projects, BVI rank between Taiwan, with 16 projects, and Hong Kong with 4.

First places in the list of foreign investors are occupied by the closest neighbours of Vietnam - the Republic of Korea, with 51 projects valued at US$102,7 million, and Japan with 37 projects.

The largest amount of projects is in the industrial sector, followed by the sector of real estate development and consultation services. Other sectors that gained popularity among the investors are the construction sector and the transport sector.

Ho Chi Minh City also licensed 102 operating foreign-invested projects to increase investment capital; so far the total new and added investment in the city this year has reached over US$2 billion, 3,4 times over the corresponding period last year.

Now there are 2,014 foreign invested projects operating in the city with a combined investment of nearly US$13.9 billion, increases of 230 projects and US$1.87 billion against 2005.

Monday, November 27, 2006

OTCC meeting in London

On November 21-22, 2006, the Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC) held its 8th meeting in London at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Corruption. Among the issues to discuss on the agenda were good governance, criminal justice, human rights and climate change.

Established in 1999, the Overseas Territories Consultative Council is held in London every year to provide a forum for consultation with British Government Ministers. The meeting was attended by Premiers, Chief Ministers and other senior politicians from Britain's Overseas Territories, except Gibraltar.

Overseas Territories Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Triesman, who hosted the 8th meeting of the Council, emphasized the importance of the event. He was delighted with the productivity of the discussions. By the way, it is the 2nd time when the meeting was hosted by Lord David Triesman. The BVI delegation included Director of the BVI London Office Ms. Dawn Smith, 7th District Representative Dr. Kedrick Pickering (also the Team BVI founding member), Permanent Secretary in the Chief Minister’s Office Mr. Clyde Lettsome and Executive Director of the BVI International Affairs Secretariat Mrs. Lorna Smith.

The annual OTCC meeting was also attended by Chief Minister Dr. D. Orlando Smith and Governor David Pearey.

Both UK and Overseas Territories representatives agreed that the UN Convention Against Corruption would be extended to the Overseas Territories as early as possible. The BVI had already expressed its agreement, and the other territories also suggested their agreement to work together on implementing a strategy for each of the Overseas Territories to integrate the work of all the parties in the criminal justice system.

Besides the British Virgin Islands, the territories represented at the OTCC were Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, St Helena, Ascension Island, Pitcairn, Turks and Caicos Islands and Montserrat.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Deloitte Announces on Establishing Caribbean/Bermuda Cluster

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu chief executive William G. Parrett in the middle of October has reported that six Deloitte member firms have intention to join together to create Deloitte Caribbean/Bermuda. The announcement was made at the inaugural Deloitte Global Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The above-mentioned members of Deloitte, which is globally known auditing and professional services firm, are located in the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. The plan for the cluster of offices has the purpose to strengthen their position in the Big Four firm's Americas region, while expanding opportunities for growth.

Creation of this structure followed the establishment of Deloitte LATCO that includes member firms from Latin American Countries, and Deloitte ASEAN containing member firms from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Guam. Deloitte Caribbean/Bermuda will include more than 30 partners and 600 professionals and will be leaded by Frank Paredes, the audit and risk regional managing partner of Deloitte Latin America/Caribbean. Daily operations will be conducted by the managing partners of existing member firms.

Frank Paredes said that the structure would help reduce many of the difficulties connected with coordination of service activities across borders by separate member firms, and that Deloitte Caribbean/Bermuda plans to expand operations to other countries of the region.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

BVI Again the Second in the Chinese Foreign Direct Investors Rating

The Ministry of Commerce of China has announced on last Wednesday that realized foreign direct investment (FDI) on the territory rose in October, after the slight decline which took place in the previous months and was the result of the changes in legislation about acquisition of Chinese companies by foreign investors.

In October the amount of foreign direct investments grew 16% to US$5.99 billion, and 3,047 foreign-invested ventures were approved. From January to October, the country attracted US$48.58 billion in FDI – up 0.34% if compared to this period of 2005. During the same period 33,068 foreign-invested enterprises were approved, down 6.32% from the previous year. The amounts of contracted FDI were not revealed in the report.

From the Ministry's report it also becomes clear that the British Virgin Islands continue to keep their position of the second largest foreign investor in China. The 2nd leading position of BVI has been already confirmed in the first two quarters of the year 2006, each time China published the updated information on FDI. The first place is with Hong Kong – the Special Administrative Region of China.

In the current report, Hong Kong remains the first among the foreign direct investors, and it is followed by the British Virgin Islands and Japan.

Gao Hong, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, has said that the total FDI amount, compared to the last year, increased very slightly, but the average value of each investment rose a lot. This is probably the result of Chinese government's policy of paying more attention to the quality of foreign investments than to the quantity.

Investment flows to the financial sector, which have been a major destination of FDI since last year, were not included in the figures released by the commerce ministry.

Monday, November 20, 2006

CEO of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission David Iverson to Explain the New Telecommunications Act 2006

Mr. David Iverson, recently appointed to be the first CEO of the new Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, will give comments and explanations of the new Telecommunication Act 2006 and the liberalization of telecommunications in the BVI. The luncheon organized by BVI Chambers of Commerce & Hotel Association (BVICCHA) where Mr. Iverson is invited as the guest speaker will be held on November 22. The arrangement will be sponsored by Cable and Wireless, which has recently reported on preparing numerous exciting products and services that would be introduced to the British Virgin Islands.

The BVICCHA invites to the luncheon all interested persons who wish to be informed on the Telecommunication Act 2006, and, moreover, to hear first-hand details from Mr. Iverson. All the guests will have the opportunity to ask questions concerning the Act and related issues. The time for networking will start from 12.00pm, and lunch will be served at 12.30pm.

The BVI Chambers of Commerce and Hotel Association is the largest civil society organization in the territory, which includes representatives of the business community and hotel industry sector, both from the BVI and from other countries. The association was created with the general purpose to actively promote a positive business and social environment, for the benefit of the territory, sustaining the unique advantages of the BVI. Some of the CCHA community works include: the Spring Regatta, BUYBVI Trade Show, Junior Achievement, Right Start programs and the Culinary program. Now this private sector organization accounts 250 members.

The BVICCHA regularly holds luncheons at member establishments, which can add to the competitive and strategic positioning of the BVI businesses in the local and international environment.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Conyers Dill & Pearman Establishes its Middle East Office in Dubai International Financial Centre

It was already discussed in previous posts in connection with Conyers Dill & Pearman law firm that BVI offshore services can achieve more popularity in the countries of the Arabian world. Quickly expanding construction business, the boom of the infrastructure projects and related financings, are expected to provide major opportunities for offshore law firms having business in this region. Conyers Dill & Pearman, which is the leading offshore law firm and one of the major players in the BVI, has celebrated on November 14 the opening of its Middle East office with a reception office at the Emirates Towers. The company's new office is based at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

Conyers Dill & Pearman specialises in company and commercial law, commercial litigation and private client matters. The firm offers comprehensive multi-jurisdictional offshore legal services and actually is the introducer of concept of multi-jurisdictional offshore law. It is the only law firm in the region to provide advice on the laws of British Virgin Islands, Bermuda and Cayman Islands.

The British Virgin Islands has proved to be a popular jurisdiction for holding companies as well as a preferred jurisdiction for joint venture vehicles, while Bermuda and the Cayman Islands have very active shipping and aircraft registries.

The Middle East office of Conyers Dill & Pearman will start with consultations on corporate and commercial law, cross-border investment funds (hedge funds, private equity and venture capital funds), project financings and securities.

It is managed by partner Roger Burgess. In his comments he said, “We have decided that the Middle East is a region where we need to be and we are committed to the region for the long-term ... The Middle East has traditionally been underinsured, and as development continues apace, demand for sophisticated insurance products will grow considerably. Given our expertise in the offshore insurance market, we expect to become involved in this line of business … With the experience we bring to the region we will also be looking to play a role in the development of Islamic insurance products.”

Non-Smoking Measures Passed by BVI Legislative Council

Important information for smokers traveling to the BVI.

The British Virgin Islands' Legislative Council unanimously passed the Tobacco Control Act on November 15, 2006. According to this Act, smoking will be banned in public places in the BVI, including offices, restaurants, bars, etc. People will not be allowed to smoke in enclosed public places or within 50 feet (15 meters) of a door or window to such a place.

The Tobacco Control Act will also regulate the promotion, distribution and use of tobacco products in the British Virgin Islands. The measures implemented ban selling tobacco to minors and give the authority to regulate tobacco advertising and sales to the government. The smokers will be given a six-month period to adjust to the ban measures.

These restrictions are implemented despite concerns about their effect on tourism in BVI. Ronnie Skelton, the British territory's minister of health and social development, has commented on the objections that "The concern for public health obviously outweighs any of the other concerns''.

Presenting the bill for its second and third reading, Mr. Skelton said he was happy that the bill got the needed support to pass through Legislative Council. The new measure will soon be signed by Gov. David Pearey. The government still has to determine the penalties for violations.

It should be noted that some other territories, including Puerto Rico and Bermuda, have recently imposed prohibitions on smoking.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Team BVI Participates in High Level Media and Presentation Training Session

Team BVI has actively started their mission and here is another news from BVI IFC.

Last week the British Virgin Islands International Finance Centre enlisted Sally Eden, which is top BBC News 24 business presenter, for management coaching. She will provide high level media and presentation training, for the BVI key spokesmen including members of Team BVI, officially launched last month.

The IFC sponsored training initiative last week comprised professionals and senior practitioners from the private sector, including Team BVI and members of the IFC's Marketing Advisory Committee, as well as FSC representatives and Government officials. A total of 17 delegates participated in the training arrangement which took place on November 6 – 10. Coaching and training sessions generally included theoretical and practical modules on public speaking and presentation skills; all delegates were practicing in media interview techniques and the introduction of broader management-skills development.

Sally Eden has commented on her assignment and work at the IFC's offices in Road Town:

“Research shows that, when listening to someone speak, more than 90% of what we take on board is through non-verbal communication – body language, the tone, speed and pitch of the voice. In high-level seminars, briefings and conferences such as the ones Team BVI and others representing the jurisdiction will be involved with going forward, it’s vital that as well as the content, the non-verbal communication helps get the message across.”

Humphry Leue, Chief Operating Officer at the BVI IFC, has commented:

“The media training and presentation coaching initiative has proved to be invaluable, particularly in advance of the IFC’s investment business seminar in London on the 15th November where several of the participants in this initiative will be making presentations and giving media interviews. We have received extremely positive feedback from all those that participated and we will be looking to host further sessions next year.

“Through initiatives like this, the IFC is attempting to provide high value, practical support to the public and private sectors in our joint efforts to promulgate the jurisdiction and its successes in the financial services arena on the international stage.”

Monday, November 13, 2006

British Virgin Islands Address London Mutual and Hedge Fund Industry Executives

After announcing the official launch of 'Team BVI', British Virgin Islands International Finance Centre is arranging a seminar for London-based executives in the mutual and hedge fund industries. The event has the purpose to find the way how to bring the London market up to speed with the rapid growth of the BVI's investment business industry, its regulatory environment and current trends and opportunities in offshore finance. The answer is expected to be found during the seminar, which will take place on Wednesday 15th November.

The seminar will feature speakers from both Public and Private sectors, including Regulators.

The seminar speakers will be Lorna Smith (Executive Director of the BVI IFC), Robert Mathavious (Managing Director & CEO of the BVI FSC), Ruth Chadwick (Director of Investment Business at the BVI FSC), Mark Chapman (Managing Partner at Deloitte, BVI and "Team BVI" founding member), Kieron O'Rourke (Partner & Head of the Investment Funds Practice of Harneys , BVI), Mark Lancaster (Director of New Business Development of Fortis Prime Funds Solutions, BVI).

Humphry A. Leue, Chief Operating Operator at the BVI International Finance Centre, comments:

"The British Virgin Islands has enjoyed a long and fruitful working relationship with the London business and professional community and we are delighted to be back in London to update this sector of the market on the BVI’s international financial services offer.

The BVI has developed into a strong, well established offshore jurisdiction for investment businesses, with a recent survey ranking it as the second most popular hedge fund domicile with approximately 10% of the global market. The BVI boasts over 2,500 funds with an estimated asset value of well over €100bn, drawing upon the support of some 500 managers and administrators licensed to provide fund support services in the Territory.

The securities and investment business sector remains a central part of our plans to further establish the BVI as a leading and well regulated jurisdiction for international financial services and we see the London professional community as a crucial element to this continued growth. We look forward to presenting and discussing these issues with key practitioners in London on November 15th."

Friday, November 10, 2006

BVI Finance Ministry Offers 2007 Budget Considering Economic Growth on the Territory

Minister for Finance of the BVI Honourable Ronnie W.Skelton has reported that the BVI Government has ended the year with a surplus above recurrent expenditures in excess of $30 million. The announcement was made on November 7, when the Minister delivered the 2007 Budget address before a packed audience at the Legislative Council Chambers. He also named the two major factors which caused the surplus: first, Government's ongoing commitment to fiscal responsibility and strategic management of the people's money, and second, strong and rapidly developing economy of the BVI, which this year posted an impressive growth rate over 7%.

Hon. Skelton also provided information on Government plans to contribute approximately $17 m to the BVI reserve fund and approximately $4.5 m for the pension, emergency and disaster contingencies, repair and renewal funds. He said that Government will still have $25 m left for major development projects including sewerage, roads and rehabilitation of schools.

Revenue collection for 2007 is expected to be at $254.02 million, while recurrent expenditure is budgeted at $222.39 million. That means that total revenue collection anticipated in the proposed 2007 budget is $20 million more than the 2006 figure.

The Finance Minister has also announced as a top priority of the BVI Government taking strong measures to struggle with the rising cost of living in the Territory, and the expansion of Government's tax-relief efforts, namely, increasing the tax-exemption level from $7,500 to $10,000.

Other Government measures will include implementing two steps to lower prices on goods sold at businesses. Hon. Skelton has informed on the expected introduction of two-tier customs duty system that will allow businesses to import goods at discounted rates and a special duty reduction on construction materials. He said that this measure will allow savings to be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices. In support of this initiative, Government will establish a special Cost of Living Committee under the Ministry of Finance, in order to ensure that citizens are not adversely affected by rising prices.

Other Government plans include the continued upgrading the Territory's beach infrastructure, complete purchase of the Virgin Gorda Airport, constructing a visitor centre on Anegada lands and other projects.

Hon. Skelton defined the goal of the 2007 budget as submitting a record of achievement before the judgment of all, to ensure that the promises made are the promises that have been kept.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Official Launch of 'Team BVI'

The BVI International Finance Centre has announced the official launch of 'Team BVI' – a dynamic unit of ambassadors from public and private sectors, to be the face and voice of the BVI financial services brand. The announcement followed the inaugural meeting of the 15 founding members of Team BVI, which took place earlier last month.

Team BVI members are drawn from Government, the Regulator's office and the Private Sector; they will work together to voice the Territory's competitive financial products and services and represent the BVI at some public forums. Team BVI will also be responsible for involving the broader financial services sector in the jurisdiction's marketing activities. This is a unique marketing initiative to create a competitive advantage by presenting the Territory as a modern and progressive jurisdiction.

Humphry A. Leue, Chief Operations Officer at the BVI International Finance Centre, the department behind Team BVI, explains: "Our intention is to build a team of spokespeople that will represent the jurisdiction and its successes on the international stage. Importantly, Team BVI is not a closed shop, far from it. Whilst there are 15 founding members, we will actively seek the assistance and expertise of the entire financial services sector in a collective push to showcase the jurisdiction’s leading offshore finance offer. In addition, the Financial Services Marketing Advisory Committee will continue to assist and advise the IFC in the research and development of our marketing strategy, and several MAC members are also founding members are also members of Team BVI."

Hon Dr. Kedrick Pickering, member of the BVI Government’s Caucus group and a Team BVI founding member, comments: "The BVI has a proud and long-standing tradition of public and private sector partnership. By formalising this working relationship into the Team BVI concept, we have created an initiative that is unique in the world of offshore finance and will help the BVI continue its rapid growth and diversification in international financial services."

Mark Chapman, Managing Partner at Deloitte and another Team BVI founding member, adds: "The BVI private sector is genuinely excited by the launch of Team BVI and looks forward to marketing and representing the jurisdiction collectively in close collaboration with the Government and Regulator. The BVI has a fantastic story of growth and cutting edge financial products and Team BVI will be a powerful means of continuing to tell this story on a global platform."

As mentioned before the British Virgin Islands gets its income mostly from financial services, tourism and the marine industry. Marketing of financial services sector that attracts hundreds of thousands of investors and brings in much income to the Territory is a very crucial task. I believe this project to be successful.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Growth in BVI high-end law services sector makes Walkers to expand

Walkers, one of the leading international offshore law firms, has announced its point of view on the significant growth in the number of sophisticated, high-value corporate transactions and complex international litigation cases in the British Virgin Islands. In response, the company took new office space and hired additional staff to service the needs of the growing number of clients. The new lawyers were hired in June, just before Walker's expansion into Jersey by joining Crills Advocates. Now they are presented to the community.

Heidi de Vries, the Managing Partner of Walkers' BVI office, has noted that adding resources to the BVI office of the company is necessary to ensure firm's clients to receive outstanding service, as the level and complexity of their work in BVI continues to increase.

One of the experienced professionals who has been recently added to Walkers' BVI office as an associate lawyer is Lisa Penn-Lettsome, who has worked for long period in the BVI government and financial sectors. Earlier in 2006 she was elected as President of the BVI Bar Association. Before this, she served over five years as Deputy Managing Director of the Territory's Financial Services Commission; she demitted this post in 2003, having decided to retire from BVI Public Service.

Mrs. Penn-Lettsome has also held other executive management positions in the Public Service including as acting Registrar of Companies, Supervisor of Elections, Magistrate and Permanent Secretary. She was the first Chairman of the BVI's Financial Investigations Agency. Ms. Penn-Lettsome is a member of the STEP’s Trust and Succession Law Review Committee and International Compliance Association.

Having joined Walkers, Lisa is presently seated in the Private Client Department. The new professionals added to the corporate department of Walkers' BVI Office are Richard May and Simon Hudd.

Mr. May trained and qualified at the London department of Ashurst – the leading international law firm for financial institutions and corporate clients. He is an experienced professional in the spheres of general corporate finance, private equities, public and private mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and investment funds. In Walkers he advises on a wide range of matters including general corporate transactions, investment funds, acquisition finance and insolvency related work.

Simon Hudd joined the Walkers' BVI office in June 2006 and now advises on general corporate and commercial issues. His previous place of work was CMS Cameron McKenna LLP in London, where he advised on general corporate issues, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate finance matters with a particular focus on cross-border transactions. Mr. Hudd has completed a Maitrise en Droit in French and European Law from the Universite de Rennes I in France in 2000, and has working knowledge of French.

As a result of a greater demand for the firm's investment funds, structured finance and insolvency litigation skills in BVI, Walkers is expecting to add five more attorneys before the end of the year 2006. Mr. Lloyd, the senior partner of Walkers' BVI office, considers that expanding the Walkers' BVI office reflects the popularity of BVI as a jurisdiction for international deals.

Friday, November 03, 2006

New Private Trust Company Legislation to be introduced in the British Virgin Islands

The BVI Financial Services Commission has reported about its plans to implement new legislation on private trust companies in the British Virgin Islands. The announcement was made on 31 October 2006 by Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the BVI FSC Robert Mathavious. He also said that the proposed legislation will appear on the statute books in or around January 2007.

Mr. Mathavious explained the way how the legislation is expected to be introduced, by amending the Financial Services Commission Act and issuing a new Regulatory Code under the Act, which will enable some types of companies to apply for exemptions from licensing and other provisions and requirements of the BVI's Banks and Trust Companies Act.

By the new legislation, private trust companies which do not offer their services to the general public will be able to apply for the new exemption from the provisions of the Banks and Trust Companies Act. It is expected that unremunerated BVI companies which hold assets as nominees or “bare trustees”, not offering their services to the general public, will be automatically exempted from the Act requirements. It is also anticipated that these exemptions will have retroactive effect.

The announcement on the new legislation was welcomed by the Chairman of the BVI Branch of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), Hélène Lewis. In her comments she said that the introduction of these measures will make the BVI a highly attractive jurisdiction to use for the incorporation of private trust companies. Christopher Mckenzie, Deputy Chairman of STEP-BVI, also approved the announcement, having added that the element of certainty that will be created by these new measures should find a great deal of favour amongst those who are seeking a reputable jurisdiction in which to set up these sorts of structures.

Lisa Penn-Lettsome, the President of the BVI Bar Association, commented that the proposed new legislation would enhance the reputation of the BVI as a jurisdiction with both robust and proportionate regulations for BVI service providers, and with the flexibility which enables clients to set up structures to meet their legitimate estate planning needs. She also added that the possibility for the companies domiciled in the BVI to act as trustees is integral to the provision of a comprehensive range of financial services by an offshore financial centre.

The BVI Government is working in close collaboration with the Financial Services Commission and the private sector. They have adopted such a policy to make sure that the Territory maintains its reputation as a modern, progressive and well-regulated jurisdiction in which to do business.

Private trust companies have got popularity in Offshore Financial Centres in recent times. The proposed new legislation will be the latest of a series of financial services-related statutes which have been enacted by the BVI Government over the past few years and which include the Virgin Islands Special Trusts Act (“VISTA”), the Trustee (Amendment) Act, the BVI Business Companies Act, the Insolvency Act and some other statutes dealing with regulatory issues.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

BVI Constitutional Talks come into the Last Round

Last Friday the BVI's Constitutional Negotiating Team has started the third round of negotiations with the United Kingdom, over recommended changes for a new BVI Constitution. Before meeting with the UK Constitutional negotiators, BVI Government held two public meetings during last month, to get public opinion on what should be included in a Fundamental Righst Chapter of a new Constitution.

The Constitutional talks in BVI started in March 2006, the items included in the list for negotiations concerned sixth ministerial position in the BVI Government, adopting a cabinet system, adding human rights chapter and establishing the constitutional post of Director of Public Prosecution.

The second round of negotiations that took place in June resulted in considerable progress in some of the discussed items; however, some issues remained. The third round of negotiations is expected to be the last one. Next stage will be meeting of the BVI Constitutional Negotiating Team headed up with BVI leader Dr Orlando Smith, with Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Lord David Triesman, in order to consider the amendments to the constitution.

Before the last stage of constitutional negotiations was started the Chief Minister noted that the BVI and UK negotiating parts recognise that agreement on the different points would only be finalised as part of an overall package that would be the basis of a new BVI Constitution.

The list of negotiation points between the BVI and UK negotiating teams is based on a detailed report from the British Virgin Islands Constitutional Commission, which was made public in November 2005. The Commission itself was appointed by the Chief Minister in April 2004 with the purpose to conduct a year-long review of the Territory's constitution, in consultation with the public, and submit recommendations for its improvement. The Commission, led by Gerard Farara QC, was required to report on several aspects of the BVI's constitutional structure.

It was proposed by the Commissioners that the cabinet would consist of a Chief Minister acting as a chairman and up to five other ministers, which would become the principal policy-making body for the BVI. The Governor would also have the power to defer the consideration of any matters that he believed may infringe on the exercise of his areas of special responsibility or be prejudicial to the Government of the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, BVI Governor Thomas Macan has stated that the public had expressed overwhelming support for the maintenance of the British Virgin Islands status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom.

The BVI Constitutional Negotiating Team is comprised of the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister Ronnie Skelton, Representative for the Seventh Electoral District Dr Kedrick Pickering, Leader of the Opposition Ralph O’Neal, Representative for the Third Electoral District Julian Fraser, and constitutional commissioners Gerard Farara, QC, and Elihu Rymer.

The UK Constitutional Negotiating Team is headed by Ian Hendry and includes Overseas Territories Constitutional Advisor, FCO, Michael Bradley; Legal Counsellor, FCO, Susan Dickson; FCO Desk Officer for the BVI and the Cayman Islands in the Overseas Territories Department Fiona Rumney; and Head of the Overseas Territories Department, FCO, Tony Crombie.

Monday, October 30, 2006

New Postal Codes to be Launched Today in BVI

The new postal code system is expected to be implemented today in the British Virgin Islands, during the ceremony which will begin at 4.45 pm.

Benefits of new postal code system including more efficient mail service were already discussed in September when BVI Government has announced on the adoption of the postal code system in the BVI. The three main benefits of implementing postal codes were also stressed during a press briefing at the chief minister's office by Postmaster General Kevin Smith. These are commercial recognition for online shopping, more efficient way of sorting and processing local mail and international recognition.

The local postal service worked along with the United States postal service to change the way mail has traditionally been transported to the BVI. Smith stated that in the past a dispatch would take from 15 to 45 days depending on the season or the route, while now the dispatches are coming to the BVI from the two transit points in New York and Miami within 3 or 4 business days.

Smith has pointed at the main difference between the old and newly implemented postal systems: traditionally every branch and sub-post office in the BVI was responsible for sorting its own mail, but now, with the introduction of the new code, there will be a hub where all mail will be processed, and the branches will focus on retail services.

The postal code structure is based on the fact that the codes which are to be revealed today will be physically linked to a post office or one's postal address. Also, by words of Smith, each island including Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke will have different code, and the major island Tortola will have three zones – East, Central and West – each having different postal code. There is also enough place allowed within the numerical system of the code for expanding with the growth of the postal infrastructure and network.

Thorough public education campaign has been planned in an effort to get the public to utilize the codes as quickly as possible. It is, however, anticipated that only 10% of the population would start using the codes in the first year and a half.

Smith also informed the publics about his intention to bring the best service in the region, and in that connection to open an Express Mail service in 2007. For this, the BVI post office is working with a US based private company to develop a data base that would feature to some degree GPS mapping and provide house delivery service.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

BVI Leading Insurance Broker Joins HLA Global

The Belmont Risk Solutions Limited agency has released a bulletin where informed about its joining to the HLA Global insurance broking network. Belmont Group is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and offers wide range of insurance-related services and products. The spheres of activities of the company include also captive management and reinsurance activities, as well as intermediary services for the BVI residents and businesses. Belmont Insurance Management Limited, the sister company of Belmont Risk Solutions Limited, holds under its management over 90 captive insurance and reinsurance companies of the BVI region.

The head of Belmont Group is Simon Owen – an investment and insurance specialist who has worked in the finance industry for over 13 years. He acts as the Managing Director of Belmont Risk Solutions Limited and Chariman of the British Virgin Islands Association of Insurance Managers. He is also member of the British Virgin Islands Marketing Advisory Committee, the Financial Services Institute Advisory Committee and the Joint Anti-Money Laundering Coordination Committee. Commenting on company's joining HLA Global, Mr. Owen stated that membership in such a strong and established broking network and 'affiliation with leading international firms such as Heath Lambert and Acordia' can bring a lot of benefits to their clients based in the BVI and overseas.

By words of Chief Operation Officer of HLA Grahame Weatherley, Belmont is 'a strong partner in the British Virgin Islands whose local knowledge and insight will enable HLA Global members around the world to meet the needs of those of their clients with a requirement for service and support in this important territory.'

The HLA Global, which was founded in 1997, is now represented in more than 60 countries. Its main partners are the UK-based Heath Lambert Group, and Acordia Inc., which is the largest bank-affiliated insurance broker in the U.S. These leading insurance broking companies, together with other partners, make up the HLA Global network with more than 6,000 people employed and US$1.5 billion in brokerage revenue a year.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

BVI FSC issued the 2nd Advisory Warning for 2006

It has already been mentioned that occasionally British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission issues advisory warnings for the publics to protect them from scams, misunderstandings or wrongdoings. This year’s first FSC Advisor Warning issued on Curam Investment Management Limited and stating that this company is not licensed by the Financial Services Commission to provide management and/or administrative services to mutual funds under the Mutual Funds Act, 1996 (as amended) has already been described.

Recently Advisory Warning No. 2 of 2006 was issued. This time it concerns Jyske Bank BVI.

Robert A. Mathavious, Managing Director/CEO of the BVI Financial Services Commission informed the general public that Jyske Bank BVI is neither incorporated nor registered in the BVI. Also, it is not licensed to carry on banking business to carry on business in or from throughout the British Virgin Islands. Mr. Mathavious indicated that extreme caution should be applied when dealing with Jyske Bank BVI.

In the world of international banking currently the most popular Jyske Bank is Danish Jyske Bank. It has the following units outside Denmark:

  • Jyske Bank, London Branch,
  • Jyske Bank, Filiale Hamburg,
  • Jyske Bank (Schweiz),
  • Jyske Bank, Sucursal en España,
  • Jyske Bank (Gibraltar) Ltd.,
  • Jyske Bank (France),
  • Berben's Effectenkantoor B.V.,
  • Jyske Bank (Poland)
and no business unit in the BVI.

If somebody has decided to drive his/her business by combining a reputable international bank’s name with perhaps the most popular offshore financial services jurisdiction, it seems more like a scam rather than a coincidence that the bank with the name Jyske Bank BVI has been registered in some other country.

Jyske Bank is an independent bank. By the end of 2005, it has been owned by more than 240 thousand shareholders. Now its total assets are above USD 23.5 billion. On May 2, 2006, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services assigned the following ratings to Jyske Bank – Long-term senior rating 'A', positive outlook, and shortterm rating 'A-1'.

To verify the status of any questionable entity claiming to be authorised to provide financial services in the BVI, the public is invited to contact the BVI Financial Services Commission.

Friday, October 20, 2006

BVI Government Warns the Publics on Royal Dominion

The BVI FSC has published the press release of the BVI Government regarding Royal Dominion. The statement was issued on 16 October, 2006 and its posting on the official website of BVI FSC has the similar purpose as issuing Advisory Warnings, which would protect the publics from misunderstanding or even scams.

It is stated in this release that the attention of the BVI Government was attracted by the website www.royaldominion.com, offering “honorary knighthoods” to the purchasers and pretending that those sales are sanctioned by the Government of the British Virgin Islands. In its turn, the Government considered it necessary to inform the publics that it has no association with Royal Dominion, nor it has empowered the proprietor of the site to sell this or any other kind of good or service.

The disclaimer that appears at the bottom of the site and acknowledges that there is no affiliation of Royal Dominion to the BVI Government is also mentioned in the statement. However, it is noted that the presence of the disclaimer does not materially alter the whole case of a clear effort to create a false impression.

The Attorney General of the BVI is going to start an investigation on this matter, and the consumers are warned about using this site and divulging any personal information.

There could be some kind of misspelling, as regards the website address named in the statement: it is mentioned as www.royaldominion.com, since the right address of the dubious site would be www.royaldominion.vg.

When visiting the site royaldominion.vg, to obtain our own point of view on this case, we could really see there not only BVI flag and BVI seal, but also pictures of Her majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Excellency Mr David Peary Governor of the British Virgin Islands. Along with using the symbols of the country, the site's main offer is to purchase the Honorary Knighthood. The website states that the Royal Dominion has offered Knighthood Causa Honoris to the public for more than a decade, with more than 200,000 recipients of the award from around the world in more than 200 countries. The honorary knighthood is positioned as “a prestigious and extraordinary award that is affordable for any budget”. The site also states that the honorary knighthood you will purchase will be published and recorded annually in book form in the United Kingdom Patent Office.

Such a “knighthood” is offered for as less as GBP 25 and also a small picture of the Certificate with BVI seal is published.

Taking in mind that Government of BVI has published this statement, the way how the information is posted on the site royaldominion .vg very much resembles an unfair advertisement or even a scam.

Monday, October 16, 2006

BVI appoints the head of TRC

The previous blogposts have already discussed telecommunications, first of all, regarding BVI improvements in this area (telecom reform, lowering rates and choosing GSM network provider) and then regarding 809 area code scams. This one is about improvements.

Now the newly-formed agency that will regulate the liberalised telecommunications industry of the BVI has its head. On October 9, 2006, the BVI Executive Council appointed David Iverson to be the first Chief Executive Officer of the new Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) for the 3-year period. Iverson holds a master’s degree in telecommunications policy and a bachelor’s of arts in business administration, political science and history.

He has been working in the areas of telecommunications sector reform, utility project and institutional capacity building for 25 years. Iverson has worked on major assignments to design regulatory organisation and policy design in Indonesia, Ghana, Malawi, Albania, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda,Togo, Nigeria and South Africa.

Iverson is now responsible for creating and then managing the TRC, associated with the Ministry of Communications and Works, determining the financial and staff resources required by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, establishing offices and developing of internal procedures of the TRC, developing and implementing the new telecommunications and radio regulatory regime.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ogier and WSmiths merger to create offshore powerhouse

Full service offshore law firm Ogier has merged with WSmiths in the British Virgin Islands, which gives the firm access to three further offshore jurisdictions. The merger will be effective from 1 February 2007.

The merger will create a large offshore company with 9 offices, including the BVI, the Cayman Islands, Jersey, Hong Kong, Guernsey, London, Ireland, Uruguay and New Zealand. The combined company will employ over 600 staff under the brand of Ogier. The companies have already begun the integration of their services and operations.

The group will be able to offer its customers advice on various aspects of the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Channel Islands law supporting all the financial markets including the dynamically developing Asian and Chinese markets.

So, Ogier’s reach will be extended into the BVI, Hong Kong and Montevideo where it has not had presence yet. Ogier has already experienced growth through merger with Boxalls, the 1st transatlantic merger of offshore firms, in 2003.

Ogier chairman Jonathan White said they are planning to provide services from all key offshore jurisdictions, which is realistic because of this merger, and that the merger moves they closer to becoming the undisputed market leader.

WSmiths was formed in the BVI 5 years ago. The company has quickly gained the respect of the market as a leading offshore firm. WSmiths was shortlisted for the HighNets Awards as “Offshore Advisers of the Year 2005” and as “Offshore Law Firm of the Year” by The Lawyer in 2006. Currently, it has a turnover of USD 5 million.

WSmiths managing partner Duncan Smith said that the merger is an exciting opportunity to move further with an enhanced multi-jurisdictional capability.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Launching BVI Shipping Registry

On September 27, 2006, the BVI Shipping Registry was officially launched. Governor David Pearey shared his expectations to see prestigious vessels docking at BVI harbour and having Road Town as their home port. Pearey commented upon the pluses the Shipping Registry would give to the British Virgin Islands. This will improve operations as well as ensure regulating and inspecting all BVI ships well.

The Virgin Islands Shipping Registry, formed through a merger of the Shipping Registry Division of the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission and the Marine Unit of the Ministry of Communications and Works and working under the authority of the Chief Minister’s Office, is a branch of one of the oldest and most prestigious registries in the world – the UK General Registry of British Ships, traditionally known as the Red Ensign Group. By the way, in 1996 the BVI hosted the Annual Red Ensign Group Conference and used the occasion to raise the question of upgrading the Registry to Category One.

The Shipping Registry is a new department within the Office of the Chief Minister headed by Captain Baboucar Sallah. This newest Government department will provide ship registration and survey service for local as well as foreign boat owners in accordance with the merchant shipping legislation.

Sallah confirmed that moving further in the right direction Category One may be formally granted to the BVI in January 2007. As was discussed in April, BVI Chief Minister Honourable Dr. D. Orlando Smith has emphasized the importance to move toward Category One status quickly. For the British Virgin Islands this is an significant step to placing the country at the pinnacle of the Maritime world.

The Maritime Coast Guard Association (MCGA) has agreed to field a Category One Monitoring Mission beginning on October 16. So, if having passed the muster, Category One will be granted to the BVI.

The new registry will not only meet the needs of seafarers, but also become a source of revenue to the BVI. Dr. D. Orlando Smith suggests that upgrading to Category One in the shipping industry, the revenue earned by the BVI would be allocated to improve social services including the modernisation of healthcare services, schools and roads. When speaking at the launch, the Chief Minister emphasized the long-term connection of the sea and the people of the BVI. The Registry hopes to capitalise on the BVI’s advantage of becoming the sailing capital of the world to attract vessels from all over the world to register, so that the BVI flag would ply the seas. At present, the Registry certify only pleasure vessels of up to 400 GRT (gross registered tonnage), 150 GRT retained for commercial vessels.

The Registry’s mandates are as follows:

  • implementing and enforcing the regulations applicable to all Virgin Island vessels on domestic and international routes, and those navigating in the waters of the Virgin Islands;
  • implementing the Maritime policies of the Government that cover shipping operations, safety of life at sea, securing and the prevention pollution from ships as well as response to pollution;
  • developing and adopting appropriate standards of training elevation and certification for Virgin Island seafarers and on-shore staff in accordance with the needs of the international and domestic shipping and the BVI maritime industry;
  • provide timely and appropriate information and advice to the Government, public and private organisations and to the public.

The advantages of the BVI Shipping Registry are as follows:

  • the BVI Registry is a member of the Red Ensign Group, so ships flying the BVI flag are entitled to British Diplomatic/Consular support and the protection of the Royal Navy;
  • access to the technical expertise of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency;
  • low Initial Registration and Annual Maintenance Fees;
  • the facilities provide secure registration of yachts, mortgages and discharge of mortgages;
  • the change or transfer of ownership or title to the vessel is easily verified with the Registry;
  • a fully computerised Fleet Management System and Database.

It is worth mentioning that the launch of the Shipping Registry coincides with the observation of World Maritime Week observed under the theme "Technical co-operation: IMO’s response to the 2005 World Summit." World Maritime Week is focused on the importance of maritime security, shipping safety and the marine environment.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

New Postal Code system for more efficient Mail Service

The updates of the BVI telecommunication system concerning the MPLS networking solution and lowered mobile rates were followed by another infrastructure improvement in the BVI. On Thursday, September 21, BVI Government has announced about the adoption of a postal code system in the British Virgin Islands. The Post Office (Amendment) Rules, 2006, which will formally introduce postal codes, will be laid at the next sitting of Legislative Council. After the Legislative Council of the BVI adopts the postal codes, it will become the 118th country in the world to have postal codes, which lead to more efficient mail service.

The adoption of postal codes will increase the accessibility of mail for country residents and citizens, and give them additional benefit of being able to more easily engage in Internet and mail catalogue shopping. The new postal code system also brings great improvements to the process of delivery of international mail to the British Virgin Islands, and the citizens of the other countries having business ties with the BVI will feel these advantages when sending mail to the country. This will probably strengthen the infrastructure of the BVI as well as its positions as an International Business Center.

The preparations for implementing new system of postal codes include training the Post Office staff in the use of post codes; this training will be conducted also with trust companies, banks, utility companies, and all the major users of the postal service. The BVI Post Office and the Department of Information and Public Relations will organise a public education campaign to inform the community on the changes.

Postal codes are unique combinations of letters and numbers that are used to clearly identify the destination of mail. These are issued by the Universal Postal Union (UPU), an international organisation based in Switzerland, whose main task is to foster cooperation between postal-sector players and ensure a truly universal network of up-to-date services. About 190 countries and territories are members of this organisation.

Monday, September 25, 2006

New networking solution and lower mobile rates

Telecommunications is one of the most fundamental elements in modern business. That is why the last news from Cable & Wireless and CCT Global Communications cannot but please local people as well as those having business connections to the BVI.

CCT Global Communications is the sole mobile telecommunications provider in the British Virgin Islands and the company that offers advanced digital voice and data network in the Caribbean. The company has lowered its rates for BVI customers (almost 10 000 people). Rob Lyons, CCT General Manager, has announced lowering GSM Flexphone rates by 60%. The lower mobile rates took effect on 1 September 2006.

It is worth mentioning that in less than a year this is already the 3rd time the company has reduced its rates. In March, it was announced that incoming cell phone to cell phone calls would be free. The 2nd announcement was that long distance rates would be lowered by 60%. Also, it should be noted that CCT Global Communications has never raised its rates in company's history.

Another giant of communications industry, Cable & Wireless, has recently announced fine-tuning and preparing numerous exciting products and services that would be introduced to the British Virgin Islands. Cable & Wireless will offer Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) solution to meet the priorities of its customers. Now, customers will be able to run more applications including voice, over one network of converged data services.

The company invested more than USD 10 million in the MPLS network, and currently Cable & Wireless is planning to continue investing in this new-generation network for providing world-class services.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

BVI holding companies boosting foreign investment to Hong Kong in the Q2-2006

I have already mentioned that the British Virgin Islands keep the 2nd largest foreign investor's position in China, the first one being Hong Kong - Special Administrative Region of the China. The 2nd quarter GDP and foreign investment data released yesterday by Hong Kong Census & Statistics Department, confirmed the similar situation in Hong Kong where the BVI has leading status among foreign investors.

According to the information provided, the direct investment income in Hong Kong grew 10.6%, compared to the same period last year.

Foreign investment share from the BVI is at impressive 18% placing it at the top of the investors' list. The British Virgin Islands provide continued inflow of direct investments into Hong Kong economy due to the large number of BVI holding companies which have been established in the BVI by Hong Kong residents. Other major investors are the US and UK at 10.1% and 6.9%, far behind BVI.

Above the level of BVI investments there are only investments received from Chinese companies and accounted for 31.4% of the total amount. As far as Hong Kong retains its status of Special Administrative Region of China, the Mainland is at all times the major source of Hong Kong's external factor income inflow.

Hong Kong GNP increased to $340.7 billion in the second quarter of this year, that means up 1.4% compared to the same period last year. The GDP increased even more and made $348.3 billion, up 5.1%.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Appleby Spurling Hunter and Bailhache Labesse Merger

Recently, both offshore law firms announced that their merger had been formally completed, so this is the birth of one of the most extensive offshore legal networks in the world. The merger was completed on September 1, 2006. Now, the group is called Appleby Hunter Bailhache and it is the only offshore provider of legal, fiduciary and administration services with a major presence in 4 leading offshore business centres - the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and Jersey. The group offers improved services to both new and existing customers.

Appleby Hunter Bailhache's key strengths are corporate and commercial advice, funds and investment services, insurance, asset finance, capital markets, banking, dispute resolution, trusts and real property, insolvency and restructuring, telecommunications and technology as well as company accounting and management services.

Both companies are one of the leaders in their respective jurisdictions, and the combined resources of the new company will give the possibility to provide support and superior services to customers aiming at conducting offshore business in the most crucial offshore jurisdictions. Both Appleby and Bailhache are described in the offshore service firms Appleby and Bailhache on June 4, 2006

As it has already been mentioned, the offshore service firm Appleby Spurling Hunter located in the most successful offshore jurisdictions – British Virgin Islands (BVI), Bermuda, Cayman Islands – and having offices in London and Hong Kong had more than 430 lawyers and staff.
15 of Appleby's lawyers had been admitted to practice in the British Virgin Islands. Appleby's BVI office is situated in Road Town, Tortola, where 5 resident attorneys provide corporate and litigation services.

Bailhache Labesse Group is a Jersey-based offshore company established in the 1890s that provided legal, fiduciary and administrative solutions to global corporations, institutions and high-net-worth individuals. Its vital features were corporate & financial services, commercial property, dispute resolution and private client work.