Sunday, April 29, 2007

BVI Government to Approve Telecommunications Liberalisation Policy

The British Virgin Islands government has approved a telecommunications liberalisation policy setting out the number of operators allowed in the market. The policy of liberalisation and restructuring of the telecommunications industry in the British Virgin Islands, provided by the new Telecommunications Act 2006, restricts the market to the three existing operators for three years.

Elmore Stoutt, Minister for Communications and Works, has announced that starting with Monday the BVI government is inviting applications under the title “Licence for the Operation of Telecommunnications Network Providing Telecommunications Services in the British Virgin Islands”, through the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), from the three currently licensed public suppliers: BVI Cable TV, Cable & Wireless, and CCT Global Communications.

It was already mentioned that CCT and Cable & Wireless were the only two telecoms providers seeking to receive licences from government, as the liberalisation process continued. Current applications will be accepted until May, 2007.

It is announced by the BVI Government that, although the market is only open to the three existing licensed operators, successful applicants will compete in all areas of telecommunications including fixed, mobile and international services, Internet and the distribution of cable network and wireless network television programme services.

The TRC will review all the information submitted in the applications, to give its approval; then, licences will be issued to the current operators for a period of 15 years. However, after the three year period the Minister for Communications and Works will make a review to determine if the market could accept additional operators.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

BVI Offshore Tax Haven Attracts New U.S. Insurance Companies

The new shareholder-owned insurance companies join a growing list of U.S. insurers seeking to avoid taxes and regulation in their homeland. According to figures recently released by the British Virgin Islands International Finance Centre, in 2006 the British Virgin Islands licensed 57 such companies known as 'captives'. This amount represented a 15% growth, which brought the domicile’s captive count to more than 400; more than half of these companies were formed in the past four years.

Humphry Leue, CEO of the BVI International Finance Centre, has said in his statement, “Almost 250 new captives have been formed in the last four years and 2006 was another very good year.” By his words, the jurisdiction is strengthening its position as the third largest regional insurance center, behind Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, and is especially attractive to small and medium-sized captives.

A captive insurance company, owned and operated by shareholders, lets its members stabilize the cost of insurance, invest their premiums and retain profits. In the last years U.S. insurance companies are moving to the British Virgin Islands, to take advantage of the corporate and banking secrecy and tax benefits offered by the territory.

Simon Owen, chairman of the BVI Association of Insurance Managers, said that in the BVI, the initial capital requirements for an insurance company owned by one company can be just $100,000 – 10 times lower than in some U.S. states. He also noted that in the British Virgin Islands there are no restrictive requirements of some other jurisdictions, like the appointment of local directors and holding annual general meetings.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Guide for Law Enforcement Officials and Regulators Published by the Government and BVI FSC

One of the latest documents released by the Government of the British Virgin Islands and the Financial Services Commission is a Handbook on International Co-operation and Information Exchange. It was published on April 4, 2007, as a Guide for Law Enforcement Officials and Regulators.

I’m sure that offshore professionals are very well aware about most part of the information published here, however as regards specific application of international standards in the BVI and particular explanation on some BVI legislative acts, general procedures and contact details are highly valuable to be read or at least bookmarked, if you are working in BVI financial services industry.

For general public setting up business company or using any other financial service from BVI it would also be recommended as an interesting and useful information to ascertain the high standards of the BVI.

The document opens with background information on international co-operation and information exchange, and continues with a brief survey and description of some key treaties and institutional initiatives relative to international co-operation.

The handbook contains information on Organisation for Co-operation and Development (OECD), which has a close working relations with the BVI through the jurisdiction's membership in the OECD Global Forum; there is also a list of other organisations with which the BVI has a working relationship.

Next chapter provides information on the BVI's Mutual Legal Assistance Regimes framework, and the ways how the legislative regime and enforcement tools are continually reviewed and reformed to keep them adjusted to developments in the domestic and international arenas. Other information concerns BVI Central Authorities, and the range of assistance that may be provided under BVI laws.

The chapter 'The Law on Providing Legal Assistance' includes provisions on law enforcement and obtaining evidence. Other chapters of the law are 'Legal Assistance in Civil or Commercial Proceedings Overseas', 'Co-operation with Foreign Regulatory Authorities', 'Mutual Legal Assistance in Tax Matters', 'Miscellaneous Matters Relative to Requests for Legal Assistance', 'General Procedures for the Transmission and Execution of Requests for Legal Assistance'.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

BVI the Second in the Chinese FDI Sources List in Q1 2007

A month ago the government of China announced FDI figures for the first two months of 2007; on last Thursday, the Ministry of Commerce of China released a statement for the first quarter of this year. In the period between January and March 2007, mainland's use of foreign investment capital totaled 15.893 billion U.S. dollars, which is an 11.56% increase from the last year.

In the first quarter 2007, 9297 new foreign-funded enterprises were established, that is 4.36% more than in the same period of 2006.

The leader of in the list of top ten sources of the invesment is Hong Kong, it is followed by the British Virgin Islands, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the United States, Cayman Islands, Samoa, Taiwan and Mauritius. The amount of foreign capital invested by these ten countries and regions made up 86.02% of actually used foreign capital in China.

From January to February 2007, China used 9.71 billion U.S. dollars in foreign capital, up 13.04% year on year, according to official figures.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

BVI FSC to Become the Ordinary Member of the International Organization of Securities Commissions

The International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) invited British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission as an ordinary member, during IOSCO's Annual Conference which took place in Mumbai, India from 9 till 12 April of 2007. This was made because of the BVI FSC's international co-operation framework and long-standing commitment to comply with international standards.

BVI have become member of this organization as a result of changes made to its legislation and responding to the principles outlined in the IOSCO MMOU. IOSCO's Executive Committee concluded that the BVI had complied with all of the standards and requirements in the Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding concerning Consultation and Co-operation and the Exchange of information (IOSCO MMOU).

British Virgin Islands is the first country admitted to ordinary membership of IOSCO based on changes made to its legislation. Also it is the only jurisdiction welcomed to the organization as an ordinary member, out of the eight new members announced in Mumbai.

For the purposes of international co-operation and transparency, the FSC has published an extensive Handbook on International co-operation and information exchange that explains and details the statutory mandates and regulations established in the jurisdiction to enhance international co-operation, and serves as a guide for law enforcement officials and regulators.

IOSCO is the main organization that sets international standards for securities markets, and membership is widely sought after by securities regulators. The Organization's membership regulated more than 90% of the world's securities markets in more than hundred jurisdictions.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Robert Mathavious – Chief Executive Officer of the BVI FSC and Important Driving Force of Financial Services Industry in the British Virgin Islands

In the previous blog I provided more detailed information about Honourable Dr Orlando Smith – the acting Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands and the leader of the BVI Constitutional Negotiation Team which has successfully finished the constitutional talks a month ago. I also mentioned that he will be one of the speakers on the BVI IFC-organized seminar for Dubai's business and financial community. Another key person to talk on the seminar will be Robert Mathavious, who is in the position of the BVI regulator and CEO of the BVI Financial Services Commission. If you have read my previous posts, you could have noticed that Mr. Robert Mathavious is mentioned in many posts telling about the success of BVI offshore industry, new developments in this sphere, and the work of BVI Financial Services Comission.
Now I would like to devote separate post to brief information about Robert Mathavious – one of the most enthusiastic and business-minded developers of BVI offshore industry.

Mr. Robert Mathavious was appointed as the first Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Services Commission in 2002, upon its establishment. Before this, he worked 25 years in the public service with the Government of the British Virgin Islands. His professional qualifications include: Masters of Business Administration, Bachelor of Science (Economics).

Maybe exactly MBA education, together with his personal qualities, as well as the fact that the most part of his worklife he has spent within BVI government, has made him the person we see now – business-minded and highly enthusiastic driving force for BVI offshore industry. He is one of the key persons that comes to mind when we remember re-organization of BVI offshore industry that was made in early 2000. Even when offshore industry all over the world experienced very hard pressure, Robert Mathavious was optimistic and believed in the future of BVI financial services industry. “How we live in the future therefore depends on how much effort we make today to take on the odds in the globalized economy; the future can be bright if we continue to work together to our mutual advantage,” he said.

Even at the time when offshore industry future was quite vague, he believed that BVI could remain on the top of reputable offshore jurisdictions through close collaboration between the BVI government, industry practitioners and the FSC, by applying the international standards in the regulation and supervising spheres, and having zero tolerance to anything not compatible with being a well respected and well regulated jurisdiction. I think that many corporate agents remember his quote when emphasizing that corporate agents should not let BVI down by associations with dubious business "You should know who you're going to bed with … if not, you run the risk that they're not fit and proper people."

Today as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the BVI Financial Services Comission, Mr. Robert Mathavious is responsible for the administration and operation of the Financial Services Commission. His duties and responsibilities include the regulation of the BVI's financial industry, the development of new service and products enhancing the attractiveness of the BVI as a centre for legitimate cross border financial services.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Honourable Dr Orlando Smith - Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands

The BVI Constitutional Talks were successfully concluded on February 28, 2007. As the leader of the delegation, Dr Orlando Smith informed that the BVI team achieved highly satisfactory negotiation results, and the constitutional talks were successfully concluded.

As Chief Minister of the Territory, Orlando Smith has been the member of the BVI Constitutional Negotiating Team during all the period of negotiations. He participated in all the rounds of Constitutional talks, the last of which took place in the period between February 23 and March 4. Now, as the new BVI Constitution is finally agreed, Dr Orlando Smith has informed the government will undertake a major public education programme, which will commence after the final adoption of the Constitution by the Governments of the BVI and UK.

The public education campaign is to include public meetings, radio and television broadcasts, other activities and publications. Detailed information on the programme will be distributed in print and on the internet. The Chief Minister said public meetings will be held on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada by the BVI Constitutional Review Commission. He added, “The Commission understands better than anyone how we arrived at our new Constitution, what it means for our community, and how best to explain it. They also have the advantage of coming to this task from a non-political position." Dr Smith said he hopes every member of the community will take the time and effort to learn about the new BVI Constitution.

Honourable Dr Orlando Smith is a figure having much weight in the British Virgin Islands' government and financial community, and it is worth-while to devote separate post to information on his background, his duties and achievments in the current position of the head of Government.

Dr Orlando Smith (born August 28, 1944) is a former chief medical officer who came into politics by being elected to the Legislative Council of the British Virgin Islands in 1999, as the leader of the newly formed National Democratic Party. He took office of the Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands on June 17, 2003, after he had lead the National Democratic Party to victory in parliamentary elections, for the first time in its history. He won by promising to boost investment in health care and education, and to reduce government corruption. The defeated Virgin Islands Party had been in power for 17 years until 2003.

In the position of the Territory's Chief Minister, Honourable Dr Orlando Smith has numerous responsibilities, including co-ordination of Government policy, development proposals and aid, economic planning, immigration issues, industrial development, regional affairs, social security, tourism, and many others.

Among the statutory boards, agencies and departments that should report directly to Chief Minister there are the Financial Services Commission, BVI Tourism Board, Social Security Board, Information and Public Relations Department, Immigration-tourism Department, etc.

Dr Orlando Smith will be also one of the most important speakers during the seminar for Dubai's business and financial community, which will be hosted by the BVI International Finance Centre in April.