Wednesday, May 31, 2006

UK MPs visiting BVI

Currently, four UK Members of Parliament are visiting the BVI to improve their knowledge of the country. The familiarisation visit takes place on May 27-31 and it has been organized and coordinated by the BVI London Office and the BVI International Affairs Secretariat.

This is a great opportunirty to enhance the MPs’ knowledge of the unique possibilities and challenges and opportunities of the BVI. The BVI Chief Minister said recentlty that this was especially important at the stage when the country is seeking constitutional advancement.
The visitors are the members of the BVI All Party Parliamentary Group. The British Virgin Islands host such a group for the first time.

The five-day visit included talks with the BVI Constitutional Negotiating Team, an informal meeting with the members of Legislative Council and a meeting with the Financial Services Commission. Also, the UK visitors met some representatives of the private and public sectors. Tour national parks on Virgin Gorda and Tortola, the BVI High School and the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College are other places to which the BVI All Party Parliamentary Group members paid attention.

An All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) is a group in the UK Parliament that includes politicians - both members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords - from all political parties to avoid favouring one political party or another. The group holds relatively informal meetings in order to discuss some particular issues reflecting parliamentarians' concerns. An All-Party Parliamentary Group does not have a formal place in the legislation but it holds an important mission – it brings together parliamentarians and interested parties. Members of APPG are registered every parliamentary year and participate in an Annual General Meeting.
The Approved List of All-Party Groups since a resolution by the House of Commons in October 1984.

British Virgin Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group was registered in the UK in late 2004. BVI All-Party Parliamentary Group is aimed at fostering good relations between the BVI and the UK. The formation of the group demonstrates the commitment of British parliamentarians to promote and defend the interests of the BVI.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

BVI Magistrate’s Court launches evening sittings

The Magistrate’s Court in the BVI is planning to begin evening sittings aimed at addressing its increasing caseload and providing for the timely dispensation of justice. The Magistrate’s Court Order on extended hours of sitting was introduced on May 1, 2006. Evening sittings will begin in June and they will take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. They will deal with road traffic matters, civil matters and some other cases. The matters under discussion are determined by the Senior Magistrate Valerie Stephens.

Senior Magistrate says that these sittings will let the court address its case backlog, by means of shortening the time people have to wait for their matters to be dispensed with.

In accordance with Ms Stephens, over the last several years the Magistrate’s Court has much more cases it must adjudicate, so introducing the evening court lets the Magistrate’s Court meet an increasingly growing demand. She reports in 2005, the Magistrate’s Court registered 2,150 criminal complaints, 1,309 traffic complaints, 100 domestic violence/maintenance matters and 262 civil matters.

During the sitting of the Court, the doors will remain open in order to facilitate delivery of all necessary services. As to ensuring the security of the Magistrate’s Court during the evening sittings, some particular measures have been taken regarding this.

The Judicial Branch of the BVI Government consists of the courts. The present court system is divided into the following courts:

  • the Appeal Court,
  • High Court,
  • Magistrate Court,
  • Office of the Registrar of the High Court.
The High Court has two resident Judges and there is one Magistrate (currently, Valerie Stephens) for the Magistrate Court. A to the Appeal Court and High Court, they are associated with the OECS – the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (the BVI is its Associate Member since 1984).

Monday, May 29, 2006

BVI offshore services could gain more popularity in Arabian countries

We already know the Conyers Dill & Pearman - an international offshore law firm that specialises in company & commercial law, commercial litigation and private client matters, the introducer of concept of multi-jurisdictional offshore law. This is one of the biggest players in the British Virgin Islands and the firm advises on the laws of British Virgin Islands as well as Bermuda and Cayman Islands.

Till now, the company had presence in 7 jurisdictions worldwide - Anguilla, the Bermuda Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, London and Singapore. Now this offshore law firm has announced the opening of operations from the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). The official opening is proposed on July, 2006.

The DIFC is used to serve all the Arab world - Middle East, East, North Africa, the Caspian states and the Indian Subcontinent. This is a region of 1.8 billion people and its combined economy's GDP is worth US$ 1.5 trillion.

As we can imagine, the British Virgin Islands as well as the Bermuda and Cayman Islands are sources of offshore services. The Dubai office will obviously be a source for new customers, huge market for offshore law firm as well as the BVI, Bermuda and Cayman Islands offshore services.

The Dubai office of Conyers Dill & Pearman will advice on corporate and commercial law. The emphasis will be made on private equity, investment funds, project financings and securitizations. This will be the first law firm that will offer such comprehensive and multi-jurisdictional offshore advice in the above-mentioned region.

More and more offshore service providers start realizing the actual potential of the customers from the Arab world. More and more big shot start placing their offices in the UAE and other Arab countries. In 2002, UBS, the biggest bank in Switzerland, set up Islamic banking subsidiary in Bahrain for providing Sharia-compliant products. Now they have 65 employees of UBS bank in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Lebanon and in March of this year the biggest banking group announced that at the end of 2006 Islamic banking subsidiary would be transferred to UBS Wealth Management and Investment Banking divisions. Also, the Cayman headquartered Walkers, one of the closest rivals of Conyers in November 2005 announced the opening of the first fully transactional office for this offshore law firm in the Dubai International Finance Centre. Walkers has also offices in the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong and London.

Back to Conyers Dill & Pearman and the BVI. Many offshore specialists prognose that this move will be succesfull and will increase the business in Islamic world both to the offshore law firm and the British Virgin Islands - offshore jurisdiction which offshore products and services are offered to the customers of Conyers Dill & Pearman.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

BVI company acquires 38.1 million shares or 25% of Eurasia Gold

Short information on latest acquirings of BVI companies.

A British Virgin Islands company Ansley Financial Holdings Ltd. has acquired nearly 25 per cent of Canada based mining company Eurasia Gold Corp. Thus BVI company again enlarged its share in the company JSV Charaltyn, a gold producer in Kazakhstan.

This is quite a interesting business combination as far as BVI company recently already was a major shareholder in JSV Charaltyn and made 100 million US$ share swap deal in which Eurasia Gold Corp. acquired this gold producing company.

After Eurasia Gold was halted on the Toronto Stock Exchange on May 25 2006, the British Virgin Islands company Ansley Financial Holdings Ltd. announced it had acquired 38.1 million Class A shares of the mining company. This makes almost 25 per cent of the company. As many large deals it made a positive impact on the stock prise. Eurasia Gold stock rose $2.82 to $3.10 on Toronto Stock Exchange on the same day.

Friday, May 26, 2006

BVI Island on the top of the most expensive offshore resorts, by Forbes

One of the most beautiful islands in the BVI – Necker Island, already mentioned in yesterday blog – has been ranked at the first place in the list of 10 the most expensive resorts offering remote island locations, luxury yachts and private chefs. This list was recently published by Forbes, and it is the second year when Forbes ranks the most exclusive resorts in the world by low-season rack rate.

While making the list, the attention was paid to the fact that the three most exclusive-use resorts having the higher rates are intended for the fewer number of guests. Some of them may be booked only by one guest group at a time, and the only way to visit them is to rent the whole island.

Top 10, which includes resort name, price per night and location:

1. Necker Island, US$ 30,000
British Virgin Islands

2. Musha Cay, US$ 24,750

3. Casa Contenta, US$ 11,600

4. The Rania Experience, US$ 9,500
The Maldives

5. The Villa at Sandy Lane, US$ 8,000

6. Altamer, US$ 4,714

7. Fregate Island Private, US$ 2,450
The Seychelles

8. Turtle Island, US$ 1,632

9. Cayo Espanto, US$ 1,395

10. Vatulele Island Resort, US $1,296

To have a look on the top 10 presentation, you should visit the

Actually, the whole list could look like the top of the offshore companies or tax jurisdictions. These are British Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Barbados, Anguilla, Seychelles, Belize – all of them are the admitted participants of offshore business. Only three locations including Fiji closing the top are not offshore jurisdictions.

As regards Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, once being a private island, it has become an exclusive-use resort in the 1980s, due to the billionaire Richard Branson. The new rates on Necker Island made US$ 5,500 per night, such a thing was practically unheard before. Modern rates start at US$ 30,000 per night, and Necker Island is of very high demand. The BVI island is able to accommodate up to 26 people, and its success has given rise to the appearance of similar exclusive resorts.

Exclusive resorts and hotels are having their best time, and they can establish their prices at whatever rate. There are many factors contributing to the popularity of private-island resorts. Forbes says one of these factors was September, 11, since travel specialists admit the big shift in the private resort experience that has started from that date.

P.S. BVI Music Fest just started on Cane Garden Bay. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

British Virgin Islands for sale ?

Would you like to buy an island in the British Virgin Islands? This offshore jurisdiction consists of more than 60 islands, rocks and cays including Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Beef Island, Cooper Island, Ginger Island, Great Camanoe, Guana Island, Jost Van Dyke, Norman Island, Peter Island, Salt Island and many small islands clustered around the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Less than 20 of them are inhabited.

The most famous private island in the British Virgin Islands is Necker Island (near Virgin Gorda). It belongs to Sir Richard Branson and is used as exclusive holiday spot.

Sir Richard Branson founded the world-famous Virgin brand and succeded in attracting media attention with his marketing tactics. This British entrepreneur is good at starting new businesses. Then, he is just an interesting and popular public figure.

He is also famous for his balloon adventures. In 1985, he started his attempts to break world record by boat and hot air balloon. He reached his goal with some records, however one of his dreams – to set a record in circumnavigating the world in a hot air balloon – was not achieved. Each his attempt to set record is a large media event with colourful advertising of his Virgin Brand.

Sir Richard Branson has covered the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, Europe, South Africa and Asia with his businesses. Just some of them are Virgin Atlantic (international airline), Virgin Megastores (music supermarkets), Virgin Books (book publishing and distributing), Virgin Credit Card, V2 Music (independent recording label, UK),Virgin Active (fitness clubs, UK), etc. The above-mentioned Necker Island is his another business located in one of the most attractive offshore destinations – the British Virgin Islands.

In 1993, Branson received the honorary degree of Doctor of Technology from Loughborough University. In 1999, he was awarded a Knighthood for his contribution to entrepreneurship – and became Sir Richard Branson. This international businessman also succeeded in writing books – mostly autobiographies.

One of his recent projects is a reality TV show "Rebel Billionaire" that got good ratings at first and was considered to be success by some and at the same time was claimed to be total failure by the others. Who knows?

The Virgin Brand is one of the most recognizable brands in the world and it could be called Branson's golden mine. It's not surprising that Sir Richard Branson chose exactly this country for buying an island of international business companies – most of his empire is built on the word "Virgin", so the British Virgin Islands was quite the logical and expected choice.

To return to where we started – private islands in the BVI, some of the most beautiful private British Virgin Islands are Peter Island, Guana Island, Marina Cay, Necker Island. Most of them offer splendid views with unique flora and fauna, comfortable accommodation and a wide selection of beaches, tennis courts, spa, pools, hiking trails, yachting, restaurants, beach bars.

So, at least theoretically, there is some space for couple's, family's or even individual's solitary paradise in the BVI.

Of course, today's blog is to some extent a joke and, most probably, you will not be able to buy such BVI as Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada or Jost Van Dyke – the main islands of the BVI, but each joke suggests some truth in it, and, if having desire, one could try to buy at least Sir Richard Branson's island on BVI.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Questionable BVI company involved in the dispute between Revenue authority and businessman

The two questions that make importance in connection with this case:

  • are you making the due diligence on your offshore partner prior entering in the business transaction?
  • are you keeping the status of the Good Standing and using the requisites of your offshore company as carefully as of your onshore company?
The case was recently published on the dispute between Uganda Revenue Authority and property magnate Sudhit Ruparelia of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. This dispute just shows clearly the importance of these questions. We will not start the senseless dispute who is right or wrong. I think that in some years we will know who managed to prove his rightfullness but probably we will never know who was right and in what matters.

To start with: there is a continuing dispute between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and Kampala property magnate Sudhir Ruparelia concerning the payment of taxes connected with
the activities of offshore companies Meera Investments, Anglo Universal Holdings (presumably the British Virgin Islands offshore company), and Goldstar International (presumably the Gibraltar offshore company). The Uganda Revenue Authority has tried to levy taxes on Meera Investments but Sudhir Ruparelia has counter-claimed the URA for the same amount. He asked the court to grant Meera Investments a permanent injunction preventing the URA from ever issuing any assessment on them. In their turn, the URA has asked Interpol to investigate the source of alleged loans given to Meera by Gibraltar and BVI offshore companies. In the opinion of URA, there may be elements of forgery and fraud involved in the case.

The company Meera Investments has stated that in 1995 and 1996 it received two loans of US$10 million from Anglo Universal Holdings of British Virgin Islands and US$25 million from Goldstar International of Gibraltar. The URA court case is that these loans are fictitious and they rather represent undeclared income liable to 30% income tax as well as penalties and interest. This is based on the fact that loan agreements between Meera Investments and the two above-mentioned companies presented to the URA have some inconsistencies:
  • No public record has been found about such companies as Anglo Universal Holdings in the BVI or Goldstar International in Gibraltar. The solicitors who allegedly drew up the agreements also did not know anything about them.
  • In such a large transaction, the loans should have been secured on Meera or Sudhir's properties, but they weren't. Also, Meera was not making loan repayments or paying interest on the loans.
Meera Investments presented a letter to Goldstar International stating that their account balance stood at US$1.33 million and dated 1995. This letter was meant to prove the existence of the loan agreement, but now it is being closely examined since the telephone number on the letterhead of the Meera Investments is 341405 while it is known that until 1999 Kampala phone numbers started with "2".

PKF which had audited Meera Investments have told the URA there is no evidence of any loan as well as of any money transfer from abroad.

The story has continued in March 2006 when Meera made its first interest payment to Goldstar International in the amount of $546,000, over 10 years after the loan. The payment was made not directly to a company account but to a firm of lawyers called Trier and Trier Associates in Gibraltar. This payment is investigated by Interpol. The UK Central Authority of the British Home Office examines the international status of Meera Investments. On May 16, 2006 the British High Commission refused to give comments on the reports that the UK Central Authority of the Home Office had also been asked to investigate.

Resume: It is not a problem to find out exactly whether the above-mentioned BVI and Gibraltar offshore companies existed and were in Good Standing in BVI and Gibraltar in 1995 and 1996 respectively. The investigation will certainly reveal these facts. As regards telephone number on the offshore company letterhead – who knows, is it a simple mistake or a typo, or is it a real key to discover the real wrongdoing?

By the way, do you have correct telephone numbers and company details on your company letterhead?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

BVI land and house taxes to be merged in property tax

This news is good both for BVI residents and for offshore businessmen having property in the British Virgin Islands.

On the 2nd of May the Legislative Council of the BVI held a meeting where the introduction and first reading of the 2006 Land and House Tax Amendment Act was made by BVI Minister for Finance Honourable Ronnie W. Skelton.

Under the existing system, land and house taxes are paid separately twice a year – in May and September. Ms. Sylvia Moses – acting Commissioner of the Inland Revenue Department – says that the merger of land and house taxes means that those who have property in the BVI will no longer make two separate payments to the Government. The one-time payment will let property owners update their taxes in an easier way. She also stresses that property owners are responsible for bringing their payments up to date.

In accordance with the bill, exemptions from property tax will be extended to cemeteries, burial grounds, rights of way and easements. If the owner of a building and the owner of the land are different persons, both will pay taxes separately.

The bill changes not only the procedure of paying taxes – the functions and powers of the Governor will be passed to the Minister of Finance. As to the responsibility of classifying land, it will be passed from the Governor to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue.

The bill is aimed at amending the Land and House Tax Ordinance and its regulations and replacing the two taxes with one called the property tax. The new law will be called the Property Tax Ordinance, and its accompanying regulations will be similar to those under the Land and House Tax Ordinance.

The Legislative Council in the BVI is the lawmaking body to authorize all public expenditure. The Legislative Council of the BVI consists of 13 members (4 elected territory-wide, 9 elected by districts). It elects a speaker (unelected person) and a deputy speaker (an elected member on the government side).

Monday, May 22, 2006

VISTA Trusts

Have you ever heard the term VISTA trust? It is something special that belongs to the British Virgin Islands and the origin of this word is quite simple. Less than three years ago the British Virgin Islands adopted the Virgin Islands Special Trusts Act, 2003. Abreviation of this Act is V.I.S.T.A.

What is the VISTA trust and why it is Special Trust Act? As it is stated on the BVI FSC website, this is an act used to make special provision for trusts of shares in companies and to make related matters that include provision for the retention by trustees of shares in a company irrespective of the financial advantages of disposal. The act is also needed for prohibiting trustees from intervening in the company management (except some particular circumstances) as well as for the appointment and removal of the company directors according to the terms of the trust instrument.

This legislation is aimed at enabling trustees to retain shares in BVI international business companies (IBCs) and local companies, irrespective of the financial benefits of holding them. The legislation allows the complete removal of the trustee’s monitoring and intervention obligations (if the settlor does not require otherwise), allows the settlor to delegate the trustee to intervene in order to resolve specific problems and lets trust instruments lay down rules for the directors appointment and removal.

Previously, trusts have been considered to be not an appropriate vehicle for holding company shares as English trust used to help to preserve the value of trust investments. That's why the trust did not seem attractive to hold assets which settlors intend trustees to retain.

The Virgin Islands Special Trusts Act 2003 limits the liability of the trustee and withdraws the trustees duties to monitor and to intervene. This is the feature that makes this trust special.
To some extent, the Virgin Islands Special Trusts Act 2003 may be a reaction to the adoption of the International Business Companies (Amendment) Act as this act immobilised bearer shares and made important amendments to the BVI corporate legislation.

As it can be traced from the title of the Act, the trusts created under the Virgin Islands Special Trusts Act 2003 will enable a shareholder to establish a trust of his company that disengages the trustee from management responsibility and permits the company and its business to be held as long as the directors think fit.

In short words, this is the answer to the questions - why the trusts made under the Virgin Islands Special Trusts Act 2003 are special trusts and what VISTA trust is. This blog is dedicated to my friend who asked whether VISTA trust is somehow related to Alta Vista :)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

BVI company involved in violation of US money-laundering statutes by Antigua gambling websites

BVI companies like any other offshore companies are used both in "white" offshore business and in ambiguously "white" business. The information below is about Antigua based gambling business where in complete business structure one BVI IBC is also involved.

Two operators of an Antigua-based Internet gambling site were announced to be indicted on charges of violating US money-laundering statutes.

The Justice Department stated that the indictment of the operators of WorldWide Telesports, Inc. charges two companies and two physical persons connected with laundering of approximately USD 250 million in Internet wagers. One of the charged was a 65-year-old American William Scott, who renounced his US citizenship and had been living in the tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Another one was a 35-year-old US citizen Jessica Davis Dyet having authority over various bank accounts of the operation. Both persons engaged in a money laundering conspiracy are fugitives indicted on similar charges in 1998.

US officials froze about USD 7 million in profits held on the island of Guernsey (semi-autonomous British territory in the English Channel known for its offshore banking).

The indictment also mentions a sports-betting operation WWTS and a "shell" company in the British Virgin Islands Soulbury Ltd.

The US government claims any Internet gambling involving US residents to be a crime. It promises to prosecute the people involved in the sites.

As to Antigua, it announced that the US ban on Internet gambling consitutes was unfair trade barrier and won a surprising victory against Washington last year at the World Trade Organization.

Of course, this means that the argument between the USA and Antigua on gambling issues is not finally solved and the current conflict can be just one step in this fight.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Delaware corporation will redomesticate to the British Virgin Islands prior business combination with China based oil and gas exploration company.

Real example of British Virgin Islands IBC use in international oil business.

Ivanhoe Energy Inc. and China Mineral Acquisition Corporation have signed an agreement for their business combination of Sunwing Energy Ltd., Ivanhoe Energy's China operating subsidiary, and a US public company China Mineral. The definitive agreement has been proposed and announced previously.

China Mineral is a Delaware corporation set up in March 2004 in order to identify and hold an operating business having operations in China. The company raised about USD 21 million (net) in an initial public offering in August 2004. It has only cash assets and no full-time employees and operating business. Really, like the simplest offshore company used for offshore holding.

Sunwing is the corporate flagship for Ivanhoe Energy's oil and gas exploration and production in China. Sunwing is one of the 1st foreign producers of light and sweet crude oil in China. It has been working in China for more than 10 years. One of its current projects is a project at Dagang with a 100% working interest in the Kongnan enhanced oil recovery (EOR). The Kongnan project is carried by Sunwing under a 30-year production-sharing contract with China National Petroleum Corporation (signed in 1997). Sunwing has recently signed a farmout agreement with Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company, Inc., which acquired a 10% working interest in the Zitong block for USD 4 million, pending approval of government authorities in China. The senior management of Sunwing has more than 50-year experience in oil and gas operations in China and the Asia-Pacific region.

Ivanhoe Energy Inc. (IVAN) is an independent international company that deals with oil and gas exploration and development. The company's work is aimed at pursuing long-term growth in its reserve base and production using technologies. Its key technologies include state-of-the-art drilling and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques, proprietary heavy oil upgrading process (HTL) as well as the conversion of natural gas to liquids (GTL). Ivanhoe Energy core operations are carried in the USA and China – with business development opportunities worldwide.

Ivanhoe Energy will own about 80 per cent of the new public company on a primary share basis. it is assumed that no China Mineral stockholders exercise conversion rights under its charter.

Just before the combination, China Mineral will redomesticate to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) as China Ivanhoe Energy Ltd. It will acquire 100 per cent of both issued and outstanding stock of Sunwing for shares of China Ivanhoe Energy, ordinary equity at USD 100 million, subject to working capital as well as long-term debt adjustments. Performance warrants and a contingent right on receiving additional shares that may provide an additional 14 per cent ownership interest (not including the exercise of outstanding warrants and options for China Mineral stock) will also be granted to Ivanhoe Energy by China Mineral.

What is required for the proposed business combination of Sunwing and China Mineral and the redomestication of China Mineral into the BVI is the approval of China Mineral stockholders. If the proposed business combination will be approved by China Mineral stockholders, it will be completed ASAP right after the special meeting – this will anyway happen before its charter requirement of August 30, 2006.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Registration of Trade Marks in the British Virgin Islands

A trade mark is usually defined as a distinctive sign of some kind which is used by a business to uniquely identify itself and its products and services to consumers as well as to distinguish the business and its products or services from those of other businesses.

Conventionally, a trademark includes a name, word, phrase, design, image, logo, symbol or a combination of these elements. Customers can recognise your products or services by trade mark – so, it can be used as a marketing tool.

You can register a trade mark in the BVI like in any other non-offshore jurisdiction.

The application for trade mark is to be filed with the Registry of Trade Marks of the British Virgin Islands and it will be published in the BVI Official Gazette. Within 3 months after the date of the first publication opposition against the application may be filed by anyone claiming to have that right. Then, the Registry grants registration of the mark for 14 years (which is a renewable period) and gives the corresponding certificate of registration.

You can register the trademark yourself, however in the BVI like in other countries it is better to delegate this job to professionals. The Registrar of Trade Marks of BVI may register a trade mark on application by or on behalf of any person who claims to be the proprietor of a trade mark.

To register a trademark in the BVI, the following documents are required:

  1. Statement by the Applicant containing the name and address of the applicant, the description or reference to a description of the trade mark to be registered, the class or classes of goods, the particular description or descriptions of goods of this class (classes). If a trade mark is already in use, the length of time of it being used. The Statement must be accompanied with the declaration describes below.
  2. Power of Attorney that authorises the Agent to file it on behalf of the Applicant.
  3. Declaration by applicant that verifies the statement and declares that the applicant is lawfully entitled to use the trade mark.
  4. If the trade mark consists of a distinctive device, mark, brand, heading, label or ticket, an ink stamp showing the trade mark is also required.

The Power of Attorney should be issued by the company which owns the trademark, signed by its director, president or other person with equivalent powers, there should be indicated the address of the company and country of incorporation.

The declaration and the Power of Attorney must be notarised by a Notary Public.If they are signed outside of the BVI, the Apostille authentication or authentication in the closest British Consulate is required.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

BVI company proposed bonds ‘BB+’ rated by Fitch, ‘BB+’ maintained for company

A 'BB+' foreign currency rating has been assigned by Fitch Ratings to the proposed senior unsecured bond issuance by GTL Trade Finance Inc. (GTL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Gerdau S.A. (Gerdau). Gerdau is a company incorporated in the BVI. In 2016, the bonds will be unsecured obligations of GTL. They will be irrevocably, unconditionally, jointly and severally guaranteed by the BVI incorporation Gerdau and its four Brazilian operating subsidiaries – Gerdau Acos Longos S.A., Gerdau Acominas S.A, Gerdau Acos Especiais S.A. and Gerdau Comercial de Acos S.A. Proceeds of the offering are about to be used for general corporate purposes – primary purpose is the repayment of outstanding debt obligations.

Fitch also maintains a 'BB+' foreign currency issuer default rating (IDR) for this BVI corporation. The Rating Outlook is Stable. The rating of Gerdau reveals quite favorable business positions of its main steel production subsidiaries – Acominas, Acos Longos and Gerdau Ameristeel Corporation (GNA), as well as the group's strong consolidated financial profile distincting with low leverage and healthy liquidity.

Following its strong performance, in 2005 Gerdau generated consolidated net revenues of $ 8.9 billion and operating Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA) of $ 2 billion. To compare with the previous year, revenues and operating earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization increased by 28% and 3%. This happened mostly due to the continuing high spread between steel prices and scrap prices and due to including in consolidated 2005 results of acquired assets.

As many BVI International Business Companies, Gerdau is geographically well diversified. This company operations are mostly located in South America – Brasil as well as North America and Europe.

Although Gerdau incorporated in the BVI is geographically varied, approximately 64% of the company's consolidated operating EBITDA was evolved by its Brazilian operating subsidiaries, with 54% of its total production capacity outside Brazil. The exposure and risk are taken into account for the ratings and the credit assessment of Gerdau's subsidiaries.

Gerdau's 'BB+' foreign currency IDR exceeds Brazil's country ceiling rating of 'BB-' due to the benefits of owning Ameristeel, large exports by its Brazilian subsidiaries and big cash balances not only in Brazil but also outside it. These 3 factors as well as management's long-term commitment to maintaining a conservative credit profile should allow Gerdau to pay on its foreign currency obligations in time in case the Brazilian government imposes capital and exchange controls during a sovereign crisis.

Gerdau is a holding company for the group's steel production facilities in North and South America and Europe. As mentioned before it is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and headquartered in Brazil – in Porto Alegre. Its companies deal with mini-mill and integrated-steel facilities in Brazil, the United States, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Spain and Uruguay. In 2006, Gerdau's companies have a crude steel production capacity of 18.7 million tons. 89.3% of its Brazilian operating companies are owned by Gerdau. As to North America, 65.2% of Ameristeel belomg to Gerdau (Ameristeel is the second-largest producer of long-steel products with an annual production capacity of 8.3 million tons).

Monday, May 15, 2006

New Arrangements for BVI Road Town Vendors

Important information to BVI Vendors. All Road Town Vendors are warned that they should have valid trade licence for 2006 for using tents, booths and other temporary structures, otherwise their trade operations will be admitted illegal and swept during the week of May 22 by the BVI Trade and Consumer Affairs Department.

Under the BVI Business, Professions and Trade Licences Act, 1990, vendors conducting operations without the above-mentioned trade licence are liable to the payment of a fine not exceeding $2,000. The fine can be even supplemented by a certain term of imprisonment.

This was explained by City Manager Ms. Eugenia O'Neal. She also noticed that "vendors with a valid trade license are not supposed to keep their tents, booths and vans in their vending locations at times when they are not in use," and " "untenanted tents, booths and vans on public or unoccupied property within the environs of Road Town will be removed after May 22 as part of the Trade and Consumer Affairs Department sweep."Ms. Eugenia O'Neal said that the Government of British Virgin Islands is planning to improve Road Town and uphold law and order in the capital of the offshore jurisdiction, thus ut us making efforts to make vendors to comply with the requirements of their trade licences.

Ms. O'Neal added that BVI Government is concerned about the negative effect of the tents and booths on Road Town's appearance at the period when all efforts are being made to beautify different areas.

Therefore, all businesses in the BVI offshore jurisdiction, starting with restaurants and bars, mobile and roadside vendors and ending with day care centres and pre-schools, will be able to receive the license from the Trade Department only after inspection and approvement of their operating premises. Starting from January 1, 2006, this concerns both first-time applicants and renewal. Before being licenced, they should meet inspection and the regulations of all relevant Government institutions.

For example, the certificate of a food handler is not a license to conduct business. Food business operators are expected to register with the Public Health Department of the British Virgin Islands. Before getting a trade licence, they will be inspected by the Environmental Health Division.

The Department of Trade and Consumer Affairs is co-operating with the Environmental Health Division and other agencies to make regular the registration and licensing of busineses operating within the BVI offshore territory.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The New BVI Minister for Communications and Works Entering into Office

Honourable Chief Minister Dr. Orlando Smith designated Mr. Stoutt for the post of the new Minister for Communications and Works of the British Virgin Islands, after having revoked from this post Hon. J. Alvin Christopher. As discussed before, the most probable reason for his removal on Tuesday were multiple delays in the development of telecommunications sector in the BVI. The last of which was absence of support for the BVI Government initiative to remove the telecommunications Liberalisation Bill from the Order paper.

On Wednesday Honourable Elmor Stoutt signed the Oath of Executive Councillor, the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath for the Due Execution of Office at Government House, in the presence of His Excellency Governor David Pearey, Chief Minister Honourable Dr. D. Orlando Smith, Minister of Education and Culture Honourable Lloyd Black and family members. After that brief swearing-in ceremony he was formally appointed the Minister for Communications and Works of the BVI offshore jurisdiction.

Honourable Elmore Stoutt reported to the Ministry this afternoon after his first meeting of Executive Council, and was warmly welcomed by staff. The new BVI Minister noticed that he is looking forward to meeting with heads of departments and units on Thursday. He said: "This is very important. We must have that cohesive approach in doing things so that everyone speaks the same language."

In the BVI offshore jurisdiction, the Minister of Communications and Works has control over diverse branches of national economy, including building standards, electricity, roads, telecommunications, transport and traffic, ports and harbours, civil aviation, explosives, water, fire and rescue service, marine transport, meteorology.

Let’s hope the latest changes will make a positive impact on the BVI telecommunications sector.

Friday, May 12, 2006

BVI telecommunications – the bill withdrawn for the 2nd time

The telecommunications have already been discussed in one of the previous posts. The BVI is aiming at better telecommunications that would improve not only its residents' quality of life but also the life of tourists who use BVI offshore banking services as well as that of those who have registered offshore business in the BVI.

Unfortunatelly, everything does not go so smoothly. Everybody has been waiting for the BVI to liberalise its telecoms business, but what happened instead was a slightly different thing.
A liberalised telecommunications market would deliver better service, lower prices and more choice. The Chief Minister confirmed that the existing telecommunications model based on exclusive license agreement is not appropriate for the BVI anymore.

The government is committed to liberalisation. People are frustrated as the proposed telecommunications bill has been withdrawn for the second time. The Chief Minister Dr. Orlando Smith and his administration will not be able to solve this matter quickly.

The Chief Minister explained that the BVI Government withdrew the bill last week as this is the area where no mistake can be afforded and where it has to be ensured that all the aspects of the bill will meet the needs of the population. The opposition seems to be very frustrated with the repeated delay of the proposed telecommunications bill. However, the Chief Minister explains that it is better to withdraw the bill at this stage than to accept it being incomplete. According to the Chief Minister the financial aspect of telecommunications bill had not been worked out properly.

Most probably, because of the delays in telecommunications sector development in the BVI, on Tuesday Chief Minister Dr. Orlando Smith fired Alvin Christopher, Communications and Works Minister. Mr. Christopher became the Minister for Natural Resources and Labour in 2003 and last year, after the death of the Minister Paul P. Wattley, he was called Communications and Works Minister.

Alvin Christopher failed in supporting the BVI Government move to remove the Telecommunications Liberalisation Bill from the Order Paper of last week's sitting of the Legislative Council and after that he was fired.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The 5th UK-Caribbean Forum - Outcomes

As it was already discussed on the 26th of April, the Head of BVI Government Chief Minister Honourable Dr. D. Orlando Smith was to attend the 5th UK-Caribbean Forum to take part in discussions on international developments and their implications aimed at achieving both medium and long-term development in the Caribbean and to raise issues of concerning how the region could forge a better working relationship with the UK, particularly, the Forum was intended to discuss mutual interests of Britain and the English-speaking Caribbean.

On Tuesday the BVI Chief Minister made the disclosure in the Legislative Council to report on the the 5th U.K.-Caribbean Forum, April 26-28 as well as on his other overseas trips.

At the UK-Caribbean forum held in Barbados, BVI Chief Minister met with top officials in the British Government. He held separate meetings with Lord David Triesman, the Minister for Overseas Territories in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Gareth Thomas and Geraldine Smith, UK MP's; Lord George Foulkes, the President of the Caribbean Britain Business Council; Baronesses Valerie Amos and Patricia Scotland; and Ambassador Richard Bernal, the director general of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery.

The ongoing process of constitutional negotiations with the British Government was discussed in his meetings. The BVI constitutional advancement was among the main issues on the agenda. This was discussed in regards to a cabinet form of government, the reserve powers and selection of the governor, separation of the duties of the attorney general as well as the enhancement of the public service. Also, the need for a more comprehensive discussion on tourism and financial services in regional economic negotiations was brought to the attention of the UK-Caribbean forum.

Head of BVI Government Chief Minister Honourable Dr. D. Orlando Smith noted that this UK-Caribbean Forum was a useful experience both for him and for his delegation.

The UK-Caribbean Forum ended with the adoption of a plan of action communiqué. Its issues will also be discussed at the EU Latin American and Caribbean Summit in Vienna, which will be held this month.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Will Labuan Offshore industry catch up the BVI ?

Labuan or Labuan Island is the main island of the Malaysian Federal Territory of Labuan, well-known for being an attractive tourist destination for rich Bruneians and scuba divers as well as an offshore financial centre.

Labuan offshore industry has put forward big plans for offshore business. As mentioned below, in their speeches Labuan representatives indicate the British Virgin Islands as a model for Labuan. Is it just a coincidence or a regularity? I suppose this again indicates a high position of the British Virgin Islands as a jurisdiction in the offshore world.

The Labuan Offshore Financial Services Authority plans the growing number of companies in its offshore financial centre – supposedly, by a tenth. It also aims at boosting Islamic finance as well as leasing and insurance businesses. Yesterday, the Labuan Offshore Financial Services Authority (Lofsa) director general Datuk Azizan Abdul Rahman met reporters at a media briefing that took place in Labuan and told that the above-mentioned is among immediate targets for this year.

Labuan's International Offshore Financial Centre (IOFC) has grown the number of registered companies to 5,152 last year – this is a 12% increase comparing to 2004. Now government-linked companies (GLCs) and large firms are in Lofsa's line-of-sight coverage.

Datuk Azizan Abdul Rahman said that Lofsa plans to manage target promotions. Lofsa realizesthat that they many clients may choose the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda and other jurisdictions for special purpose vehicles. The Labuan-registered companies come from some 80 countries and the half are from the Association of South-East Asian Nations and the Pacific region. Lofsa will focus on potential investors from Asian countries – China, Korea and the Middle East. Captive insurance and leasing to companies will be promoted by the agency.

There are some 72 offshore centres worldwide. Tthe BVI, for instance, have been around for up to 60 years. So, Azizan claims that Labuan is not that far away from the others as it is a relatively young jurisdiction. Labuan is catching up with its rivals rather fast. The BVI has about 70-80 offshore banks, and there are some 59 in Labuan. So, what Labuan needs to do is to step up marketing and promotions.

There are good grounds for improvement in Labuan. Lofsa would use RM120 million set aside for it under the Ninth Malaysia Plan for boosting research and development, upgrading its information technology infrastructure, as well as building an international school.
To compare this to the BVI, you can find the information on Labuan offshore companies on LOFSA's webpage.

But let's not underestimate Labuan – this is a fast-growing offshore jurisdiction that really shows considerable growth and will soon catch up and overtake some offshore orb. Then, it should be taken into consideration that Labuan is to a large extent fighting for the same clients that traditionally give preference to the British Virgin Islands – the Asian region, mostly China and countries close to it.

Labuan offers a wide range of services – from offshore company registration and offshore banking to offshore trusts and fund management.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The UK will not stand in the way of countries seeking Independence

David Maxim Triesman, Lord Triesman, the Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories, again delivered the message from Britain to its remaining colonies. He announced that the UK would not stand in the way of countries seeking Independence.

But at the same time he again confirm that the UK would not let anything go among the territories for which it was still responsible.

This week Lord Triesman has delivered a speech in the Turks and Caicos. He said that most of the territories were flourishing. Four of them report per capita GDPs greater than that of the UK. These territories are the British Virgin Islands, Cayman, Bermuda and the Falkland Islands. The success to a great extent was due to the rule of law, protection of the environment and human rights. It is interesting to note that 3 of them are well known offshore jurisdictions – BVI, Cayman and Bermuda.

In his opinion, this is the context for looking at the constitutional relationship between the UK and the territories, the BVI includingly. According to Lord Triesman, the UK does not have desire for the territories to remain British against its people’s wishes, but the people do not want to lose the British link. So, the UK has to retain its responsibilities for the people. This meant that the UK wants to retain its sufficient powers.

Lord Triesman excluded the option of free association, proposed by the UN. He did not find acceptable that the BVI, as well as other territories, could draw up its own constitution.
Lord Triesman said the other option other than Independence was proposed by UN General Assembly resolution 1541. This was fully integrating colonies with the UK but that was unlikely to find favour.

The Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories does not find problematic agreement among the territories leading to good governance and transparency in decision making.

Some words about Lord Triesman and Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Lord Triesman of Tottenham is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of Foreign and Commonwealth Office responsible for Relations with the Caribbean, Overseas Territories, Latin America, Africa, the Commonwealth, UK visas, Public Diplomacy, Migration and Consular policy.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office aims at working for the United Kingdom's interests in a safe and prosperous world. Its main objectives are:

  • to save the world from global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction;
  • to protect the UK from illegal immigration, drug trafficking and other international crime;
  • to promote UK economic interests in an expanding and open global economy;
  • to assure security and good governance of the UK's Overseas Territories (including the British Virgin Islands);
  • to provide consular services of high quality to British nationals abroad (entry clearance through UK Visas.);
  • an effective EU in a secure neighborhood.

To find more information on the FCO, you can get acquainted with the Organizational Structure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

BVI adopts a bill to fight corruption

The BVI is not only actively fighting against the outer problems, connected with the wrongdoings of offshore businessmen having or managing BVI International Business Companies or BVI banking system, but is also actively improving on inner legislation so that neither anyone from the inside nor from the outside could dishonestly influence the BVI Government. The bill for fighting corruption has been adopted. Nobody says that the corruption on the upper level does exist in the BVI, but this preventative bill is aimed in avoiding this possibility in future.

So, the government of the British Virgin Islands has approved this bill. The bill requires that members of the Legislative Council register their financial interests.

Chief Minister Dr. Orlando Smith assumed the bill will increase public confidence in the executive body and noted that the Register of Interests Bill represents a fulfillment of government's measures to promote integrity in public life.

In accordance with this law, a Registrar of Interests will maintain a registry and all members of Legislative Council must annually declare their financial interests in this registry. These financial interests include sponsorships, employment, directorships, clients, overseas visits, gifts received, land and shareholdings.Also, a Standing Select Committee of the Legislative Council will be established for the issues related to the Register.

Some words on the BVI Legislative Council to understand the impact of this new bill:
The BVI Legislative Council is the lawmaking body. It is a part of the British Virgin Islands government consisting of three branches:

  • the Executive Council,
  • the Judiciary,
  • and the Legislative Council.

The Legislative Council of the British Virgin Islands consists if 13 members:
4 of these members are elected territory-wide, the remaining 9 are elected by districts.

The BVI Legislative Council authorizes all public expenditure – both current or capital. The BVI Legislative Council elects a speaker (an unelected person) and a deputy speaker (an elected member) on the government side. Members of the Council are elected for a term of maximally four years or at the pleasure of the Chief Minister who can trigger an election by the dissolution of the Council to form a new Government.

Friday, May 05, 2006

BVI investment group invests $565,000 in European e-learning company

There are a lot of investment companies registered in the British Virgin Islands. One of them is Spintop Venture Holdings Limited – BVI investment group going to invest more than half a million dollars in one of the leading European e-learning company Futuremedia (Nasdaq: FMDAY).

Yesterday Futuremedia PLC announced a private placement of Ordinary Shares for subscriptions totalling $4,315,000. The proceeds of this placement will be used by the company for financing the acquisition of Button Group PLC, expected to complete this month, as well as for additional working capital.

Out of $4,315,000, $3,500,000 will be invested by a UK-based Le Shark Limited at the price of $0.20 per share for a total of 17,750,000 Ordinary Shares. Spintop Venture Holdings Limited, a BVI-based investment group making BVI investor the second biggest in the company, will invest $565,000.

Company directors Jan Vandamme, Leonard M. Fertig, Mick Pilsworth and Michiel Steel will invest $50,000 for each in ordinary shares of the Futuremedia company and a private European investor Marc Renson will invest $50,000.

In accordance with company's expectations, these placements are to be completed within 10 business days. A finders fee is payable on this transaction in ordinary shares, which is 773,575 shares.

Futuremedia is a leading company with two decades of experience providing next-generation, valuable e-learning content and services to both public and private organisations. Futuremedia content and services offer includes Learning Management Systems, learning consultancy, learning programs and a large library of published courseware titles. Futuremedia is also considered to be a leader and pioneer in the development and delivery of a variety of fully-managed employee benefit programs for large companies.

So, this seems to be a good offshore investment for the BVI investment group.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Will BVI be better connected to the Continent?

For many offshore businessmen it makes no difference how well the offshore jurisdiction is connected to the World as far as nowadays when almost everything can be done through phone, fax, Internet, the IBC can be incorporated without visiting the country. Also, offshore bank account can be opened through bank’s office in another country or by providing legalized documents by mail.

Still, sometimes it is necessary to visit the country to meet the registered agent, banker or just to have a good time (it is not a secret that many offshore jurisdictions are located on beautiful islands with great beaches and wonderful sights).

Many visitors coming to the BVI say that the BVI could be better connected to the continent. And there a good news comes – Puerto Rican commuter carrier hopes to begin flights between San Juan La Isla Executive Airport British Virgin Islands (Tortola) this month.

Eastern Caribbean Airlines started operating between La Isla and the Dominican Republic in last May. Now it will run to King Airport twice a day and to Beef Island's Lettsome Airport once a day. Twin-engine turboprop Cessna 402s will serve these routes carrying up to eight passengers. The company has been convinced by its customers that a market for travelling to the U.S. and British Virgin Islands from La Isla does exist. The company has analyzed the market in Puerto Rico and found out that passengers want an easier, economy option rather than flying from San Juan International. The company's corporate parent is Traverse City, Mich.-based Viva International Inc. It is working on setting the rates.

The tickets of Eastern Caribbean Airlines flights to the British Virgin Islands will be sold from its website.

Eastern Caribbean's plans came unexpectedly to Lettsome Airport manager Bernard Smith, who said that air carriers must apply before beginning service to the BVI. He said that he had not seen any applications concerning this and claimed this to be news for him. Let’s hope this minor problem will be settled soon and BVI will be better connected to the World.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sino Mongolian free trade zone could be boosted by casino project

Back to BVI - Asia connections. Today let's talk about Mongolia.

Zamyn Uud is a small Mongolian city (population 8,400) on the China borders. From China's side there is a much bigger city – Erlian, a trading post of 100,000 people.

Some time ago Sino-Mongolian free trade zone was established there. The municipal government signed a cooperative agreement with the West Paradise Co., Ltd., offshore company based in the British Virgin Islands. Accordingly, a 900-hectare parcel on the western side of Erlianhot Port was meant for Zamyn Uud Free Economic Zone. The BVI company was promised tax breaks and other incentives.

The city is located in a desert and currently it is the only thing, which the Mongolian border town Zamyn Uud has in common with the gambling Mecca of Las Vegas. Mongolian planners and foreign entrepreneurs hope that one day the tiny town will become a major gambling and resort destination. The government of Mongolia is ready to sign a contract that will put a little-known US real estate company in charge of building a casino complex that will include hotels, shopping malls, banks and financial institutions, a convention center as well as a modern airport.
Visitors from China are those on whom the success of the plan depends. Many casinos in border towns in Vietnam, Myanmar and North Korea attest to the potential market among Chinese visitors itching to place their bets.

It could really happen that this casino project will boost Zamyn Uud Free Economic Zone, started by the BVI company. Good Luck.

Monday, May 01, 2006

BVI Music Festival – economic boost

The 2006 BVI Music Festival takes place in the BVI on the beach in Cane Garden Bay May 26 – 28.

Music of different genres, beach games, food and drinks, beauty of Cane Garden Bay… The BVI Music Festival is "where the sound of music meets the sounds of Nature". The British Virgin Islands Tourist Board is optimistic about the profits it's about to bring to the offshore country.

Manager of Events Marketing and the BVI Film Commission Rhodni Skelton recently expressed his excitement about this music festival. He said that all the Commission is excited because it leads to fully packed hotel rooms, fully booked restaurants and empty garages of car rental companies.

As to the performers – these are rhythm and blues artist Roberta Flack and reggae singers Buju Banton and Luciano. Skelton said that with such big names this will be probably the biggest music festival the BVI have had.

The British Virgin Islands Tourist Board is collaborating with the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, the Solid Waste Department, Her Majesty’s Customs as well as the BVI Immigration Department to have everything coordinated, organized and fixed. Accordingly, both local and coming visitors are provided with a safe and enjoyable music festival. Also, the board is promoting the event overseas through its satellite offices.

Skelton said that, as the BVI Music Festival is growing, it requires more support by the public and private sectors.

The British Virgin Islands Music Festival is annual event started in 2000.