Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Appointments announced by BVI FSC

On December 19, three new appointments were announced by the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission to the positions of Deputy Director, Enforcement, Deputy Director, Legal, and Senior Policy, Research & Statistics Officer.
Mr. Gary Wilson was appointed as Deputy Director, Enforcement, and will hold responsibility for investigating breaches of BVI regulatory laws and overseeing the implementation of enforcement action by licensees. Before this appointment, Mr. Wilson was the head of the Financial Investigation and Intelligence Unit in Bermuda, and served in this position for 20 years. By words of the Managing Director of FSC Robert Mathavious, now “he will play a central role in delivering the Commission's objective of promoting high standards of conduct among licensees and demonstrating the benefits of compliant behaviour.”

Ms. Ramoutar, appointed to the post of Deputy Director, is responsible for providing legal advice to the FSC on the BVI's regulatory and registry laws, and for territory's representation in civil and enforcement proceedings. Prior to joining the FSC, she has served as the Director, Legal Advisory & Enforcement Division of the Trinidad and Tobago Securities Commission, and as a Compliance Consultant with the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto.

Ms. McCall was appointed to the post of Senior Policy, Research & Statistics Officer, and will be responsible for providing policy-oriented research and analysis on issues relating to financial institutions, and the framework of the local financial services sector. She will also provide the development and enhancement of the statistics portfolio of the BVI FSC. The most recent position of Ms. McCall before this post was the Clerk of the House of Assembly of BVI.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Brand New BVI Website Launched by Digicel

Digicel, which officially started operations in the British Virgin Islands two weeks ago, now has announced the launch of its brand new website.

On the website, which adopts the new format across all of company's other markets in the region, Digicel will feature a host of information and offer full range of services to its customers and other interested persons. The address of the website is www.digicelbvi.com.

Alan Bates, CEO of Digicel BVI Ltd, noted that the innovative service presented by Digicel to its customers and the BVI public, is easy to use, accessible and quick. He also invited everyone to take a look at the site, explore the Digicel offers and learn more about the company.

Digicel purchased license to the BVI operations a year ago. Having invested over US$17 million in the BVI, the company has promoted strong competition into the telecommunications market in the territory, and was the first to bring the whole range of innovative products and services to the British Virgin Islands.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Digicel Launches in BVI

Caribbean operator Digicel Ltd. has launched services in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) by investing US $17 mln in the network for the country.

For Digicel, BVI is 25th market in the Caribbean and Central America and 30th market worldwide – with a population of 23,000 and 90% mobile coverage. Now the fastest growing mobile operator in the Caribbean region plans to provide coverage to 98% of the population, by building a brand new state-of-the-art network that includes innovations such as self-service top up machines with 24-hour access and online bill payment.

Colm Delves, CEO of Digicel Group, said that as the third entrant to the market (after CCT Global Communications and Cable & Wireless) they will drive competition by providing “the best coverage, best care and best value for the people of the country”. He also thanked the BVI Government for all of its assistance with their entrance to the market.

CEO of Digicel BVI is Alan Bates who has been with Digicel since 2003, serving as head of sales and distribution for the Dutch Caribbean region and sales director for Digicel Bermuda.

BVI is one of the most prosperous economies in the Caribbean, with rapidly developing tourism and financial services industry.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

OECS Members Discuss the Start of Caribbean Economic Union

In order to consolidate the actions of the Caribbean region, its leaders have agreed to implement the project of Economic Union in 2009. The presidents of the nine countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) during the meeting in Montserrat's capital determined to speed up public consultations about the integration process, to make them effective the next year.

Dominica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines already began information exchange with their population about the project and its benefits to the economy of the region. Dominica also included in their consultation a proposal of Trinidad and Tobago, to achieve the OECS political integration by 2013.

One of the general ideas of the Economic Union project is to allow free workforce movement in the Caribbean area and to settle them together with their families.

The British Virgin Islands and Anguilla are associate members of the OECS. Full members of the organization are Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Saint Lucia.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

BVI premier speaks on budget cuts

Hon. Ralph O'Neal, the premier of the British Virgin Islands, made an announcement that construction projects will be placed on hold, because of the global financial crisis and reduction of the budget connected with it.

The BVI premier said the economic situation in the country could improve in the next six months, if the measures will be taken by the U.S., Europe and other countries. O'Neal said that the BVI expects a decline in tourism, which it depends on for the bulk of its revenues. In September, about 276,000 tourists arrived in the country – about 1% decrease from the last year.

The 2009 budget is expected to be present in January. Hon Ralph O'Neal noticed that government programs related to education and health will be financed as much as possible.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Conifer Securities adds key executives to the BVI Fund Administration Services

One of the leading middle and back-office services providers, Conifer Securities, LLC, announced the hire of two executives to its offshore fund administration business in the British Virgin Islands, Conifer Fund Services Ltd. (CFS).

David Bateman
will be an associate director, and Donna-Maria De Roche will serve as an account manager for the fund. Both of them have expertise in providing offshore services to US-based hedge funds and alternative asset managers.

Peter O'Connell, managing director of the BVI and San Francisco-based Conifer Fund Services Ltd., said that hedge funds more than ever need to be disciplined and efficient, and the experience of the newly hired specialists will prove extremely valuable to the BVI fund and its clients.

Mr Bateman joins Conifer after working seven years in the offshore financial services industry. He held the position of Fund Administration Manager at UBS Fund Services (Ireland) Ltd., and prior to this position he was a Fund Administration Manager at UBS Fund Services (Cayman) Ltd., and a senior accountant at Bank of America (Cayman) Ltd.

Ms. De Roche has worked for five years at Fortis Prime Fund Solutions (BVI) Limited, where she received experience in administering funds with varying legal structures and investment strategies. Before going into the funds industry, she spent nine years at the PricewaterhouseCoopers office in Trinidad in the position of an audit and business advisory manager.

Conifer Fund Services (BVI) Ltd. was launched in 2006 as part of the Conifer Securities LLC, which has headquarters in San Francisco, New York, Boston and the British Virgin Islands and is working in this business since 1989, providing accounting services across a broad range of investment disciplines to both onshore and offshore funds. The services of the fund include fund accounting, fund performance and benchmark reporting, performance and management fee calculation, generation of required financial records, reports and documentation needed to support annual audit and tax preparation by outside auditors.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BVI Team Participating at World Travel Market in London

The four members delegation represented the jurisdiction of the British Virgin Islands at the World Travel Market which took place in London from November 10 until November 13. This Market organized annually is a major networking and business event for travel industry officials.

According to the Acting Director of Tourism Hadassah Ward, the British Virgin Islands delegation participating in the event was engaged in competitive research. She described the Market as a place providing huge opportunities for business and, but also said that its high cost negatively affects BVI participation.

By words of tourism official, this year's BVI delegation had the purpose to draw more attention to the BVI tourism and show that the territory is open for business, being still one of the best destinations in the Caribbean.

Further on, Ward stated that the economic downturn in the U.S. and the financial crisis are having global effect, and also the potential impact on the tourism industry, so more targeted advertising is needed, with the purpose to focus the efforts of the BVI Tourist Board.

Other members of the delegation who attended the World Travel Market were Abigail O’Neal, who is Marine/Online Specialist, Lynette Harrigan, Emerging Markets and Niche Marketing Manager, and Perla George, the General Manager of North America, Sales.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BVI Delegation Participates in 48th OECS Meeting

This week, a delegation from the British Virgin Islands will take part in the 48th meeting of the Authority of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The meeting will start in Montserrat on November 20, with an opening ceremony which will be attended by Representative for the Fifth Electoral District Elvis Harrigan, Permanent Secretary in the Premier's Office Rosalie Adams, and Assistant Secretary for External Affairs Najan Christopher. Closing of the meeting is planned on Friday.

The delegates will adopt the report of the 47th meeting of the OECS Authority and a number of issues relating to the OECS economic union, geopolitical relations, trade, macro-economic development, social and sustainable development, disaster management, and the implementation of the recently signed CARIFORUM-European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Among other problems to be discussed, the OECS delegates will also discuss the investments by OECS member states in biodiversity management, HIV/AIDS Project Unit, the Pharmaceutical Procurement Service (PPS) and the status of the 2008 OECS Human Development Report.

OECS consists of nine members including two associate members, one of them being the British Virgin Islands. The OECS Authority is the highest decision making body of the organisation, which includes the Heads of Government of member states.

Friday, November 14, 2008

BVI FSC Publishes Statistical Bulletin for the Second Quarter of 2008

On 7 November 2008, the BVI Financial Services Commission published the eleventh volume of Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, covering the changes and progress in different sectors of British Virgin Islands financial services industry. In this volume, statistical and other information for the period as of June 30 2008 is cumulated, including figures from the Registry of Corporate Affairs, from Banking & Fiduciary services sector, Mutual Funds and Insurance industries.

In the second quarter 2008, there were 15,831 offshore companies registered in the British Virgin Islands – a little less than in the same period of 2007 with 17,803 new incorporations. However it is more than in any 2nd quarter of years 2003-2006. Below, you can see the chart showing the dynamics of BVI company formation in Q2 of the years 2003-2008.

Year (Q2)BVI offshore companies incorporated in Q2 (IBC and BC)
20039,602
200413,118
200514,666
200615,517
200717,803
200815,831

The cumulative number of offshore companies registered in the BVI and actively working at June 30, 2008 was 445,865. There were 532 Limited Partnerships of the whole amount of companies having active status by June 30, 2008. There were 26 Limited Partnerships registered, compared to 28 registered in Qtr2 2007, and 32 in Qtr1 2008. Obviously less number of incorporations in the period from April to June 2008, if compared to the offshore company formation statistics for the year 2007, partially might be the result of global economic recession, however there could be also some offshore jurisdiction related issues.

Along with less companies incorporated, there were also less dissolutions fixed by the BVI FSC - 9,268 in the period from April to June.

Banking and Fiduciary statistics estimated by the Commission showed cumulative figures as of June 30 2008 that included 98 Class I Trusts, 2 Class II and 4 Class III Trusts, and 109 Restricted Class II Trusts registered.

According to the Investment Business Statistics for the period ended on June 30 2008, total number of managers and administrators newly registered in the jurisdiction has also reduced, as well as the total number of professional, private and public mutual funds. The Statistical Bulletin includes the dynamics of active mutual funds registrations in the similar periods of 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

BVI FSC Publishes Draft Regulatory Code

A month ago the BVI Financial Services Commission issued Draft Regulatory Code 2008 - a consultative document under the Financial Services Commission Act, 2001. The document was published by the BVI FSC on October 10.

The Financial Services Commission Act , 2001, and the Regulatory legislation for which the Commission bears responsibility, together establish a general legal framework for the regulation and supervision by the Commission of financial services industry in BVI. Regulation and supervision of financial services is quite complex, and from the practical point of view it is not worth to include the details in the primary legislation, which should not be changed frequently.

With the purpose to keep the regulatory framework in balance with changing international standards in the financial services area, the FSC Act, 2001 enabled the Commission, as BVI financial services regulator, to issue Regulatory Code. This document contains more detailed requirements that support and sometimes supplement basic framework established by the primary legislation.

Part 1 of the Draft Code contains certain fundamental principles of business that apply to all licensees. The requirements of general application that apply to every licensee, regardless of the type of licence held, are set out in Part 2. Following parts of the draft Regulatory Code include additional requirements on specific types or categories of licensees: Part 3 includes banking requirements, Part 4 contains insurance requirements; Part 5 contains requirements applicable to trust companies and company managers; Part 6 - requirements applicable to persons licensed under the Securities and Investment Business Act, 2008, except for mutual funds. Requirements applicable to mutual funds are given in Part 7.

Being a subsidiary legislation, the Regulatory Code has the status of “law”, meaning it has the same legal force as if it had been contained in the basic financial services legislation of the BVI.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Warning on BVI firm Ross-Parkinson and NY-based International Equity Portfolio

The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, Finansinspektionen, has reported that Ross Parkinson (www. rossparkinson .com), having its headquarters in the British Virgin Islands and using the address Wickhams Cay, Road Town, Tortola, BVI, as well as New York-based International Equity Portfolio, are offering investment services without the required authorisation, and therefore they are not entitled to provide financial services.

Representatives of Ross-Parkinson have contacted investors by phone offering to buy their holdings of shares, however in advance they are asking the investors to pay a fee. This may be called an advance fee fraud scheme.

This warning was published on public sites with the purpose to protect the investing community.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

BVI FSC Publishes Public Statement Suspending Activities of the BVI-registered Fund

The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission issued a public statement pursuant to the Financial Services Commission Act, 2001, concerning Reserve International Liquidity Fund Ltd. The purpose of this public announcement by the BVI FSC is to protect the interests of the customers, creditors or investors of this BVI Offshore Fund, registered in 1999 under the BVI Mutual Funds Act, 1996.

In October 2008, the Commission received complaints from investors who alleged that the Fund has improperly valued its bond holdings in an institution which had filed for bankruptcy. The complaint specifically alleges that the Fund failed to appropriately mark down the value of these bonds, and further allowed certain investors to redeem their investments at par value, before taking action to write down the value of the bonds which made the Fund's remaining investors to absorb the loss associated with these bonds.

Investigations into the Fund's activities were commenced on 10 October, when the Financial Services Commission asked for detailed information and records from the Fund to establish the relevance of allegations against it. While investigations into the Fund are continuing, the Commission issued a directive to the BVI Fund, requiring it, until further notice, to suspend the shares subscription and their redemption to investors, as well as submit monthly reports to the Commission that would include the details of its cash balance and investments, and an update on all ongoing litigation where the Fund is involved.

In the course of investigation of Reserve International Liquidity Fund Ltd, the FSC will provide an update.

Monday, November 03, 2008

OECD Plans to Strengthen Standards Regulating Offshore Financial Industry

The OTCC Meeting in the course of which BVI signed taxation agreements, has been held in the period when the OECD prepared to crackdown on offshore and low-tax financial centres which were still deemed to be “uncooperative”. This was part of plans by the member governments of OECD to further strengthen regulatory safeguards in the global financial system, and followed the publication of parliamentary reports that accused the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of complacency in the monitoring of tax evasion and money laundering risks in certain offshore financial centres.

In the last period, the UK government has experienced the increasing pressure to enforce higher standards of transparency in some of the 14 offshore territories, which are still under British sovereignty, and among then there are British Virgin Islands.

According to the UK Authorities Report on Financial Services Regulation in BVI and other offshore centres, published in May 2008, the regulation standards in the areas such as banking, money laundering, insurance and securities are not as good as those in the Crown Dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man).

These claims and submissions were discussed by the BVI and the Cayman Islands, and by some other offshore centres among British dependencies. The offshore jurisdictions argued that they have brought their regulatory standards in accordance with the OECD FATF requirements.

The BVI government informed the Commons Select Committee on Foreign affairs that the claims that the so-called offshore centres are not properly regulated and are a haven for tax evasion, money laundering and terrorist financing, are unfair, and 'too often no effort is made to give recognition to the regulatory advances of such offshore jurisdictions as the BVI.'

Friday, October 31, 2008

Two Tax Agreements signed by BVI and United Kingdom

During the OTCC Meeting held in London on October 28-29 the Premier of the BVI Ralph O'Neal and UK Foreign Office Minister Gillian Merron signed Tax and Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA). This document was signed, along with double taxation agreement with the United Kingdom, on October 29, just some days after similar agreement was signed by the governments of the British Virgin Islands and Australia.

The TIEA signed by the BVI and UK officials provides for exchange of information on request concerning tax matters under criminal or civil investigation. This is the third TIEA signed by the BVI, - after the agreements with the US (2002) and Australia.

Ralph O'Neal commented on the signing of the Agreement saying that “The conclusion of this TIEA demonstrates the commitment of both the BVI and the United Kingdom governments to international co-operation in transparency and exchange of information... The BVI will continue to foster and develop international best practice in all areas of financial regulation.”

Also, during the OTCC forum the British Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom have signed an agreement for the avoidance of double taxation with respect to income tax. The agreement will bring substantial benefits to the residents of both countries.

Both tax agreements will come into force as soon as both governments complete legislative procedures needed to give them effect.

Along with the BVI, the OTCC meeting is attended by goverment delegations from several other British offshore territories in the Caribbean region, and the UK is to sign tax agreements with some of them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

BVI and Australia Governments Sign Tax Information Exchange Agreement

The Premier of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Hon. Ralph O’Neal and the Australian Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs Chris Bowen signed Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA), which provides for full exchange of information on request in both criminal and civil tax matters.

The document is based on the existing legislation in both countries, already providing for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. Now both governments will share information to eliminate harmful tax practices. The agreement reflects the commitment of the governments of Australia and BVI to implement OECD principles of transparency and effective information exchange, and international standards on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing. The Australian Government has welcomed the BVI admission as a full member to the International Organisation of Securities Commissions, where it joins more than 100 jurisdictions with recognised high standards of regulation and compliance.

According to the TIEA, Australia and the BVI have agreed not to apply prejudicial or restrictive measures based on harmful tax practices to residents or nationals. Australia will not refer to the BVI as a 'tax haven' on the governmental level, and instead it will list the jurisdiction in the Taxation Administration Regulations 1976 as an 'information exchange country'. As a result of the changed status of the BVI, its residents will receive access to reduced withholding tax rates on distribution of certain income they may receive from Australian managed investment trusts.

This is the fourth Tax Information Exchange Agreement for Australia as one of the leading countries implementing international co-operation on tax matters, and the second for the BVI.

Also, Australia and the BVI have signed an agreement for the allocation of taxation rights with respect to certain income of individuals, which will provide benefits to Australian and BVI residents. Both countries also agreed to enter into discussions to develop further co-operation in areas of mutual interest.

Ralph O'Neal in his comments welcomed Australia's recognition of the high regulatory standards set by the BVI, and the continuing engagement of the financial centre in the OECD’s Global Forum on Taxation.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tenth OTCC Meeting Hosted in London

Recently appointed Foreign Office Minister Gillian Merron hosts the 10th meeting of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC) in London, on October 28 and 29. The OTCC is a key annual event in the British Government Overseas Territories calendar, which is held each year in London. During these meetings, the heads of Britain's Overseas Territories governments and their representatives are discussing policy issues with a team of British Government Ministers.

The issues that will be discussed on the agenda of this year's council cover a range of current economic issues and global crisis; financial services regulation; human rights, prospects for the relationship between the European Union and the Overseas Territories; the environment and disaster management.

Gillian Merron who leads the British Government team is joined by some other members of Parliament. Opening the OTCC, Gillian Merron said, “the forum is a critical part of debate and decision-making between the UK and the Overseas Territories. We've got a great deal to discuss – from financial services to human rights - I’m looking forward to getting down to the business of ensuring continuing close relations and the security and prosperity of the OTs."

The proceedings of this OTCC will include the signing of a new Tax Information Exchange Arrangement between the UK and the British Virgin Islands.

The Overseas Territories Consultative Council was established as a result of the 1999 White Paper Partnership for Progress and Prosperity on the UK's relationship with the Overseas Territories.

Friday, October 24, 2008

BVI Confirms Its Ranking Among Top Global Financial Centres

British Virgin Islands confirmed its presence in the list of the top 30 countries in the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI), published by the City of London on September 25. The index is updated every six months, and it is the fourth time when it is published, based on fourteen factors of competitiveness grouped into five key areas – people, business environment, market access, infrastructure and general competitiveness. BVI was first time included in the list in March 2008, ranked in the 27th place among 69 leading international finance centres. The press release published by the BVI FSC on October 10, reaffirms BVI status as top global financial centre in the fourth GFCI, based on nearly 24,000 assessments from business professionals worldwide.

Since March, individual rating of the BVI has increased, going up from 574 in March to 584 in the September report, and showing the improved overall perception of the BVI. Now the jurisdiction ranks 29th among 59 centres.

It is noted in the press release by the FSC that this version goes into less detail than the last index published half a year ago, that placed BVI among the most stable offshore jurisdictions like Hong Kong, Zurich and the Isle of Man. The report cites published by the City of London stress the importance of the regulatory environment which includes taxation as the most important factor in the competitiveness of offshore centres.

Robert Mathavious, MD/CEO of the BVI FSC, said that “in these challenging times, it is good to know that practitioners across the world continue to view the BVI as a leading global finance centre.” By his words, he is also proud that the BVI FSC was “the first ever regulator to be accepted as an ordinary member of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).”

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Minister Appointed for UK Overseas Territories Including British Virgin Islands

The United Kingdom has appointed Gillian Merron as Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the appointment being effective October 5, 2008. Gillian Merron has succeeded in this post Meg Munn who quitted government service, and her responsibility will be the administration of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories - the Caribbean, including the British Virgin Islands, South America, Central America, Australasia and the Pacific region.

Previous post of Gillian Merron was Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for International Development. Merron has been the member of Parliament since 1997. In her new post, she has become one of the five members of ministerial team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, headed by Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

BVI Ports Authority to be Managed by the New Team

The BVI Government has approved a seven-member board to manage the British Virgin Islands Ports Authority, Mr. Ronnie Lettsome being the new chairman for a three-year term. Other members of the BVI Ports Authority were appointed to the board with different terms: Mr. Franklin Walters will serve the same three-year term as the chairman, Mr. Gregory Adams and Mr. Maxwell Smith will serve for two years, Mr. Kent Bernier and Ms. Patricia Romney have been appointed for one year.

The Managing Director of the BVI Ports Authority Board, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Works, and the Financial Secretary were appointed ex-officio members of the board. All the appointments took effect on July 23.

The BVI Ports Authority was established in 1990 as a corporate entity, and began its operations in 1991. Its main purpose is to provide and maintain the required harbour and marine infrastructure and facilitate the safe, efficient and effective use of ports in the BVI Territory. Starting from July 2008, the BVI Ports Authority enforced harbor charges for vessels entering and staying in the territorial waters of the BVI.

Monday, October 13, 2008

BVI Government Lifts the Ban on Cell Towers Construction

Next day after the announcement by Minister of Communications and Works Hon. Julian Fraser that BVI government lifted the stop of cell sites construction in the territory, Digicel BVI Ltd began the process of relocating the first of several cellular site in the BVI in areas of concern identified by the BVI community.

The BVI government placed a stop order on any further construction of mobile towers on 26 June this year, and construction work was frozen for three months as government organized several meetings between all three licensed telecommunications operators - Cable & Wireless, CCT Global Communications and Digicel – to agree on a tower sharing strategy. The Ministry for Communications and Works and the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission from their side participated in the meetings.

The last meeting of the three mobile providers was held on 26 September, at the invitation of Hon. Julian Fraser who facilitated it with the purpose to review mobile operators' strategy and agreement on co-location of towers in the territory. The mobile operators have agreed on sharing approximately 20 cellular tower sites, and some additional locations are currently undergoing technical evaluation concerning their ability to support co-location.

So, following consideration of the progress made by BVI government and the commitment by the operators achieved in the series of meetings and negotiations, on Monday Minister Fraser announced the decision to lift the freeze. The approval of the mobile tower sharing strategy allowed the recommencement of the construction of mobile towers in BVI.

The benefits of the tower sharing strategy and implementing recently developed DRAFT planning guidelines are minimization of the proliferation of cell towers throughout the territory (which was the problem of the community), and providing mobile operators the ability to improve their coverage profiles.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

New Yacht Storage System Introduced in the BVI

The largest full-service marina and boatyard in the British Virgin Islands has introduced a new yacht storage system for hurricane storage that will increase the safety of yachts stored. By this system, Nanny Cay Marina has received the status of an approved hurricane storage facility by one of the world's leading insurer of luxury yachts, Pantaenius.

Nanny Cay is the first boatyard in the Caribbean Windstorm Exclusion Area (CNWEA) with this yacht storage system for hurricane storage. The British Virgin Islands are in the middle of the CNWEA, and from 1 July to 15 November, in the season of hurricanes, yachts generally go south of latitude 12.4N to maintain insurance coverage.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Premier Forecasts Long-Term Effects of US Financial Issues on BVI Economy

While the U.S. government tries to minimize the effects of large-scale financial crisis on its citizens, BVI proves to be one of the countries whose economy can also be affected by the problems in the U.S. financial system. However, by words of Hon. Ralph T. O’ Neal, Premier and Minister of Finance, the BVI has not yet been afftected because its commercial banks have not been involved to the sub-prime crisis and subsequent credit. Financial Services Commission has not reported any fallout because of the financial crisis in the U.S.

The Premier noted that BVI economy, based on tourism and financial services sectors, is highly dependent on the US and Europe. BVI tourism is more dependent sector, while financial services are dependent just to some extent, because largest part of BVI financial business comes from Asia, which is also the major market for incorporation of offshore business companies.

Ralph O'Neal said that the BVI government is concerned over the long term effects, because “given the depth of the financial crisis the BVI's financial services industry could also be affected.” He noted that the financial crisis has already resulted in the U.S. economy recession, and the recessions in the United Kingdom and Europe are very probable, followed by unemployment and inflation.

The recession can affect consumer and business confidence, spending and financing, which directly impact the economy of the BVI. Premier O'Neal also explained that “the global credit crunch could affect the Government's ability to secure overseas financing and borrowing locally could hamper private investment.”

In the beginning of this week, investors still expected larger bank turmoil, and banks continued to put aside cash. The Federal Reserve and other Central Banks of the U.S. are working on measures to make billions available to troubled banks, and solve the financial problem that continues to move ahead.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

BVI FSC Warns Publics about Unauthorised Financial Services Providers

On September 22, 2008, the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission has published Advisory Warning No.3 concerning the activities of the company Offshore Health and Travel Benefits. By this Advisory Warning, the BVI FSC had the purpose to warn public against dealing with unauthorised financial services providers.

According to the information announced by the BVI FSC, Offshore Health and Travel Benefits has not received any license or authorisation “to conduct any form of regulated financial services business in or from within the BVI, and as such has not been authorised to conduct insurance business in or from within the BVI.”

Offshore Health and Travel Benefits has solicited insurance business through its website at www. tilloglobe .com, and an advertisement in the British Virgin Islands media. Meanwhile, the BVI FSC informed the public that Offshore Health and Travel Benefits have not been accessed by the Commission to be allowed to carry on insurance or any type of financial services business in or from within the BVI.

Members of the public are also invited to provide the BVI FSC with any information concerning Offshore Health and Travel Benefits and its activities, as well as any other unlicensed entities operating in the similar way in or from within the BVI territory.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

BVI FSC Issues New Guidance Notes on the Mutual Funds Act, 1996

On September 16, 2008, the BVI Financial Services Commission published 'The Mutual Funds Act, 1996 Guidance Notes On Mutual Fund Annual Returns'. The Guidance Notes issued with respect to the Mutual Funds Act, 1996, include “the Mutual Fund Annual Returns” Form, which may be completed by any director, officer or otherwise authorised representative of the reporting fund. The return must be submitted within the six months after the end of the reporting period to BVI FSC.

Currently issued Guidance Notes consist of two parts. The first part named “Notes on Authorisation” includes information on how to fill in the name of reporting fund, the Certificate number, the reporting period, how to select the characteristics of the entity, how to indicate the names and addresses of approved functionaries. The second part of the document named “Notes on Fund Information” includes other important matters concerning General Asset Allocation, Asset Allocation by Jurisdiction, Investment Information, and Summary Expenses including management expenses, performance expenses, administration and professional expenses.

BVI is one of the most popular offshore mutual funds jurisdiction. There are more than 2.5 thousand active mutual and hedge funds in the BVI.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Appointment to the Post of Deputy Governor

In the beginning of this week, Mrs. V. Inez Archibald took office as Deputy Governor of the British Virgin Islands. She was appointed to this post by the Queen in late August, and is the second woman and the fourth Virgin Islander to take the post of Deputy Governor since it was established in 1977.

Mrs. V. Inez Archibald has had a long career in the public and private sectors, as the former CEO of J.S. Archibald & Co., the Director of J.S. Archibald Trust Services, and Managing Director of a property development company Jipfa Investments Ltd. She has also served as a member and chairman of the Public Service Commission, as a member of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, the Income Tax Appeal Board and the Board of the Family Support Network. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Economics and Business Administration from Rollins College in Florida, a Master's Degree in Religion from Stetson University in Florida, and a Masters Degree in Divinity from Emory University in Georgia.

In this post Mrs. Archibald succeeds Ms. Dancia Penn, which was appointed as Deputy Governor of BVI in September 2004. In the interim between Ms. Penn and Mrs. Archibald’s substantive appointments, former Deputy Governor Mr. Elton Georges was re-appointed by BVI Governor David Pearey in March 2007, to replace Mrs. Dancia Penn.

As the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Archibald will assist the Governor in the exercise of various functions. During her first day in the Deputy Governor's office, she met with his Excellency the Governor David Pearey, and was introduced to the office staff.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

British Virgin Islands relations with neighbours: Support and Exchange of Experience

In August 2008, the four-member BVI delegation led by Registrar-General Stephanie Benn visited the Dominican Republic, with a fact-finding mission of immigration, visa, and security matters. Other participant of the delegation is Mrs. Carolyn Stoutt Igwe – the Assistant Secretary in the BVI Premier's Office.

During its visit, the BVI delegation met with the Investigation Department of the Dominican Republic National Police, and with the representatives of the country's Central Registry Office and Migration Department. Also, they met with officials at the British, United States, and Dutch Embassies and the Honorary Consulate of the Bahamas. By words of the leader of the BVI delegation, “the discussions were enlightening, interactive, rewarding, and indeed a tremendous learning experience for members of the group.” Also, she noted that the delegation learned about the techniques used to produce fraudulent documents and methods used to detect those documents.

It should be said that citizens of the Dominican Republic are required to get a visa to visit the British Virgin Islands, and 906 visas were issued for citizens of that country since January of this year, to enter or remain on the territory.

On September 9, the BVI Premier Ralph O'Neal has offered his territory's assistance to another British Overseas Territory, the Turks and Caicos Islands, which has suffered from the Hurricane Ike. The Premier sent a letter to the Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, where on behalf of his government and the people of the British Virgin Islands he conveyed concern over the devastation of the territory and the destructions caused by Ike.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Smith & Williamson Announces Expansion to BVI and the Cayman Islands

One of the leading independent providers of investment management, accountancy, tax, corporate and financial advisory services, Smith & Williamson, has recently expanded in the Caribbean region, opening offshore offices in the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

The company has published summer issue of their quarterly bulletin brought by Smith & Williamson's Restructuring & Recovery Services division. In this report, they announced establishing a joint venture with CRG Partners, – a U.S. firm specialising in operational and financial restructuring service, - in April this year.The joint venture of Smith & Williamson with this firm will also strengthen company's restructuring and recovery presence in the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands. The partners will be able to offer a comprehensive suite of restructuring services in these offshore jurisdictions, including turnaround consulting, interim management, crisis management, performance improvement and financial restructuring and advisory services from Europe to the U.S.

Smith & Williamson has 12 principal offices in the UK and Ireland, and is working in 97 countries providing global investment and financial advisory service. Along with establishing its offshore offices in BVI and the Cayman Islands, Smith & Williamson has also expanded its presence in Ireland due to a merger with Dublin-based Oliver Freaney & Company, which has extensive experience in launching financial and business solutions.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two OECS meetings

The Ministry of Health and Social Development in the British Virgin Islands is preparing to host two separate meetings of Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) which will take place this week.

The 22nd board meeting of the OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Service (OECS/PPS) will be held on September 11. On this meeting, several papers are to be presented, which include the “OECS/PPS Budget for 2008-2009” and “Feasibility Study on the Pooled Procurement of Dialysis Fluids and Supplies.” The agenda of this meeting will also include a video presentation on counterfeit medicines, and a discussion on the strategies how to combat it. An opening ceremony for this meeting will be held on September 10, the delegates will be welcomed by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Social Development Hon. Dancia Penn.

The OECS/PPS is a formal group of nine Eastern Caribbean countries - Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It was previously known as the Eastern Caribbean Drug Service, established under a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 1986 with the purpose to maximise OECS government resources for the purchase of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. The organisation is financially self-sufficient since 1989.

Another OECS meeting that will be hosted by the British Virgin Islands – the meeting of OECS Health Ministers, which will take place on Friday, September 12. The agenda for this meeting is not released yet.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Hon. Ralph O'Neal Speaking on BVI Government's 1st Year Achievements

BVI Premier Hon. Ralph O’Neal delivered a speech on Monday, September 1, reporting on his work in the first year in this post, and the achievements of his administration. He highlighted last year's “stumbling blocks” and accomplishments, and pledged that BVI's economy will remain strong and adapted to the increasing globalization process.

Mr. O'Neal stated that, despite a global economic decline and other related processes, the BVI government has maintained the territory's economic growth, kept low level of unemployment and accomplished several important projects. He also said that the government start was not so effective because of poor financial accounting.

As the Minister of Finance, Mr. O'Neal noted that the economic expansion in the BVI over the last months has provided a strong economic foundation for the long-term growth and sustainability of the Social Security Board Fund, which grew from US$275 million at the end of 2006 to US$322 million by the end of July 2008. This increase allowed BVI government to raise some categories of social payments.

Mr. O'Neal also said some words to BVI residents on how to ensure their own financial security in terms of global downturn. The Minister urged to reduce consumption, source imports from cheaper markets, and undertake some other measures to support the efforts of the government.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

BVI in the list of Major FDI Investors in Vietnam

According to the information reported at a meeting in Ha Noi by the Ministry of Planning and Investment, during the first eight months of the year Vietnam attracted foreign direct investments on the amount of US$47.2 billion into its economy. The number of new FDI projects is down 20% from last year, however, despite high inflation and slow economic growth in the country, new FDI enterprises contributed investment capital at $46.3 billion – five times more than in the same period last year. Besides newly licensed projects, the expanded projects of foreign investors in the country provided combined additional investment of $833 million – that is 55% increase year-on-year.

So far, the neighbour country of Taiwan is the leader among 38 nations and territories investing in Vietnam's economy. Other major FDI investors are Japan, British Virgin Islands and the US, Malaysia, Brunei, Canada, Singapore and Thailand. Most of these countries, including BVI, have remained on the top list for a long time. In the official statistics of this year, earlier published by the Foreign Investment Agency of Vietnam, BVI ranked the second among foreign investors.

This time, it was admitted by representatives of foreign-invested enterprises that the Vietnamese economy was facing great challenges. They also expressed confidence that “the country would overcome these obstacles and become more attractive to international investors in the long term.”

More than 50% of new projects launched by FDI investors in Vietnam were in services industry; 48.6% went to manufacturing and construction, and the agro-forestry-fishery sector.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Two Lawyers Hired to the BVI Office of Appleby

Appleby Hunter Bailhache, an offshore specialist group with substantial presence in the jurisdictions of the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and others, in the mid of August announced recruiting additional lawyers staff to the three-partner practice in the British Virgin Islands.

One of the two lawyers which will add to the British Virgin Islands offering are Eliot Simpson, who was an advocate in the Jersey firm Mourant du Feu & Jeune. Now, as he joined as a partner to Appleby office in BVI, he will lead the BVI litigation and insolvency group.

Litigation and insolvency barrister Andrew Willins has become an associate at Appleby after membership in 29 Bedford Row, Nicholas Francis QC's chambers.

Andrew Bolton, the head of litigation and insolvency of Appleby, commented on the new appointments to the BVI office, saying that the skills and experience they bring mean that the company has one of the strongest litigation practices in the BVI.

Appleby Group has approximately 600 lawyers and staff in different jurisdictions and financial centres. The previous appointment to the BVI office of Appleby was in February 2007, when Alex Erskine was appointed as an BVI Office Managing Partner.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

HMRC to Sign Tax Information Agreement with the BVI

Financial Secretary Jane Kennedy has released information about the plans of UK HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for the period ending March 31, 2009. HMRC is going to complete work on new Tax Information Agreements with numerous countries, among which there is the British Virgin Islands, Brazil, Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man. Double taxation conventions (DTCs) are to be signed with the Netherlands, Ethiopia, Libya and Thailand.

Besides the BVI and other countries, HMRC also intends to progress negotiations with China, US, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Hungary, and start negotiations with Australia, Canada, Israel, and Spain.

The provisions of the convention between the UK and Makedonia, which was signed on November 8, 2006, took effect in the UK on April 1 for corporation tax purposes, and on April 6 for income tax and capital gains tax purposes, while in Macedonia they took effect from January 1.

Monday, August 11, 2008

BVI International Finance Centre Welcomes IMF's Decision to Halt Tax Haven Discrimination

The BVI Government welcomed recent decision of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to stop discrimination between onshore and offshore financial centres. Last month, the IMF has combined its assessment programs for OFCs and FSAP program. In the announcement of this decision, the IMF acknowledged that globalisation has "increased the range of cross-border transactions and intermediation in many countries, as well as by the active efforts of a number of countries to build or promote offshore business."

The British Virgin Islands International Finance Centre, the organization responsible for the marketing and promotion of the BVI financial services industry, welcomed this decision, as creating more level playing field on which financial centres will be judged, based on their regulatory standards rather than geographic location or size.

Information Service of the BVI Government commented that the traditional distinction between onshore and offshore financial centres meant that territories such as the BVI, with significant offshore financial activities, were often regarded as tax havens that support tax evasion, money laundering and other illicit financial activities.

Executive Director of the BVI IFC Mrs. Lorna Smith said: "We have long made the point that it is not a question of onshore or offshore, it is a question of sound or weak regulation and we are delighted that the IMF has recognised this." She also assured that there are strict regulations concerning the operation of the financial sector in the BVI territory.

The BVI IFC is hoping that other international bodies and regulatory organizations will follow the example of the IMF and end this distinction between onshore and offshore jurisdictions.

The IMF also announced about its plans to adopt a more standardised surveillance of the financial sector of economy.

Friday, August 08, 2008

BVI Financial system used by the US State Department to pay 5 million reward to anonymous offshore recipient

According to RIA news and Serbian newspaper Press, the US State Department paid $5 million as a reward to an anonymous, offshore recipient for assisting in the capture of former leader of Bosnian Serbs and the wartime Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic. By the official reports, he was arrested in Belgrade on July 21 after more than 10 years on the run.

Payment number RW 20-036-008/2 was made on July 23, two days after the news of Karadzic's arrest was released, to an anonymous offshore account in the British Virgin Islands. According to Western diplomatic sources, the payment to the BVI account was made as a reward for information that allowed to catch the fugitive.

The money is said to be paid by the State Department's Rewards for Justice Program, which usually pays for information that helps prevent terrorist attacks. The Rewards for Justice Program earlier claimed that the reward had been paid for assistance in the killing of an Afghan militant leader.

The Serbian paper informed that the only such case close in time to the $5 mln payment to the unknown BVI company was the killing of Al Qaeda's main chemical and biological weapons expert Abu Khabab al Masri. However, the terrorist was killed at least four days after the reward was paid, but on the same day as Radovan Karadzic was caught, and this was confirmed by British secret agents.

Karadzic's attorney said he suspected the people who caught Karadzic three days before the official arrest could have received this reward to the BVI offshore account.

The arrest of the former Bosnian Serb leader was one of the conditions set by the European Union for Serbia's membership. Karadzic is the most prominent war crimes suspect to appear in the Hague since Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

BVI Premier Suspends the Director of Tourism Board, Opposition Reacts Sharply

During the last week we could watch the conflict between the premier Ralph O'Neal and the opposition, which arose as a result of premier's decision that Tourism Director Janis Braithwaite-Edwards would be sent on six months leave. Ralph O'Neal, who is also tourism minister, in the announcement made on Saturday July 26 stressed the importance of tourism to the territory, and spoke about his personal involvement in recent months with the Tourist Board and Ms. Braithwaite-Edwards.

By his words, being involved in the work of the Tourist Board, he was able to observe and get a good idea of what was happening in the organization. Mr. O'Neal also added that the new acting chairman of the Tourist Board Terrance Ford has begun an investigation into the status of the organisation, and has found ”many operational and tactical flaws.”

Mr. O'Neal said that “given the desperate economic situation of the world and the serious operational issues plaguing the Tourist Board, there is need for restructuring and reorganizing the Tourist Board, and this cannot be done properly while the present director of tourism is active.”

The announcement has drawn much critics from the opposition's side. Its leader Dr. Orlando Smith reacted sharply to the radio message of Ralph O'Neal, saying that he was really shocked with it. He noted that Tourism Director has not received any verbal or written communication on the subject before the premier made public statement on it.

Dr. Smith also has the experience of work with Ms. Braithwaite-Edwards, when he was tourism minister, and characterized her as trained and qualified, having lots of experience. He said that the premier had no authority to dismiss anybody working at the Tourist Board, because it is the statutory body, and any dismissal would have to come from its chairman.

Hon. Ralph O'Neal already paid attention to financial situation in the BVI Tourist Board, soon after his victory in the elections. Less than a year ago, he banned traveling overseas by employees of the BVI Tourist Board, and addressed the territory's community saying that the organisation needs tighter fiscal management.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

BVI FSC Issues Advisory Warning Informing the Public on Pyramid Schemes

Last week the second Advisory Warning was published by the BVI FSC, concerning NewNetQuest as a potential pyramid scheme targeting BVI residents. The document reveals general principles of the scheme referred to as a pyramide, and its main point based on the fact that those who have initiated the scheme get benefit, while those in its bottom lose most. It is especially noted that pyramid schemes may be masked as legitimate investment opportunities, offering packages which may be purchased for varying amounts, high investments return, and/or share percentage of net advertising revenue.

BVI FSC made the public aware that it does not regulate such schemes, and has not authorised or endorsed NewNetQuest. Members of the public are advised to exercise extreme caution dealing with NewNetQuest and other similar schemes, and are also invited to provide the Commission with any information on questionable entities operating in or from within the BVI.

The advisory warning, issued under Section 4 (1)(1) of the Financial Services Commission Act, 2001, was published on 25 July 2008 and signed by Robert A. Mathavious, Managing Director/CEO of the Commission.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

BVI files evidence to UK Offshore Inquiry

In the beginning of July, the BVI government has submitted evidence to the United Kingdom's parliamentary committee's offshore inquiry. With this move, the jurisdiction became the latest offshore financial center in a growing list to have this done.

With the submission, the territory's government made an attempt to convey the message that the British Virgin Islands is widely recognized as a jurisdiction operating a robust regulatory and supervisory regime in financial services, and that it has a well-established system of international cooperation. Its system of international cooperation has been recognized by such international organizations as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to Lorna Smith, Executive Director of the BVI International Finance Centre, this is the strong message to have been processed to the Inquiry into Offshore Financial Centres by the UK Parliament's Treasury Select Committee. She also explained that BVI has proved that “it is up to the task of maintaining a high quality of regulation as it grows and develops".

Besides BVI, evidence has been submitted to the inquiry by the authorities in the Cayman Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and Bermuda.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

FAC publishes Report on BVI and other British Overseas Territories

On July 6, 2008, a report on the British Overseas Territories was published by Britain’s Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC).

The FAC was appointed by the House of Commons in order to examine the administration, expenditure and policy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and its associated agencies.

The main conclusions and recommendations outlined in the report regarded such aspects as Constitutional relationship, Governance, Consultation and representation, Rule of Law, Human Rights, Environmental governance, Contingent liabilities, Illegal immigration, Regulation of civil aviation as well as HMG’s overall approach to the Overseas Territories.

Tha main message from the Chairman of the Committee, Mike Gapes MP addressed to the BVI can be characterized by the following his quotation: “We recommend that the FCO should encourage Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and Gibraltar to continue to make progress in improving financial regulation, in particular in arrangements for investigating money laundering.”

Regarding the situation in fighting money laundering in other UK dependencies, British MP and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Mike Gapes was more strict: “We are concerned by the National Audit Office’s finding that the FCO has been complacent in managing the risk of money laundering in Anguilla, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands”.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

BVI FSC Publishes Advisory Warning Based on the FATF Public Statement

On June 9, the BVI Financial Services Commission published the first advisory warning of the year, related to a public statement issued by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on 28 February, 2008. In this statement, the international organization noted the deficiencies in the regimes of anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing (AML/CFT) in Uzbekistan, Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Sao Tome and Principe and the northern part of Cyprus.

With respect to these jurisdictions, the FATF expressed concern about the risks that remain in all of them and constitute money laundering and financing of terrorism vulnerability in the international financial system. However, the organization noted progress in adopting AML/CFT legislation and improving AML/CFT regime in most of these countries.

In relation to this public statement by FATF on money laundering and terrorist financing risks, the BVI FSC advises the public and all the persons required to comply with the requirements of the Anti-money Laundering Regulations, 2008 and the Anti-money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Code of Practice, 2008, to note the concerns expressed by FATF, and consider the risks that could arise when dealing with customers or transactions involving any of these six jurisdictions.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

New Airport Being Developed in the British Virgin Islands

BVI Premier Hon. Ralph T. O'Neal said that the renovated Virgin Gorda airport will have the capacity to accomodate 19 seater planes. The project of the complete purchase and development of the airport started in 2002; now, by words of Premier, the new airport will replace a narrow 1960-era airstrip built by administrators of the high-end Little Dix Bay resort. The facility was sold to the government in the late 1990s.

British-based Halcrow Group Ltd. has signed a contract to upgrade the Virgin Gorda site over the next year. Earlier, the company developed airstrips in Montserrat and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

New Harbor Charges Implemented by BVI Ports Authority from July 1

The British Virgin Islands Ports Authority enforces harbor charges effective today (July 1, 2008). Under the new fee structure, vessels entering and remaining in the territorial waters of the BVI will be charged $1 per foot for the first day, $0.75 per foot for the second day and $0.50 per foot for the third day. Vessels using Ports Authority facilities will be levied harbor charges in the amount of $1 per foot of vessel length per day, boats less than 15 feet and those that are home ported in the BVI are exempt from the harbor charges.

By words of Minister of Communications and Works Julian Fraser, for the Ports Authority, as a self-funded organization responsible for the development and maintenance of its infrastructure, it is necessary to collect harbor charges.

In 1991, the Ports Authority awarded a contract to a Canadian firm Sedley & Co. to study the authority's financial situation, and it recommended another fee structure that would ensure the economic viability of the organization. The regulations went into effect in 1997, but have never been enforced until now.

Monday, June 30, 2008

BVI participates in FATF Meeting in London

Last week, an important meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) took place in London, - for the first time since the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) received the status of the associate member of the FATF in February 2008. During this plenary, FATF reported on the new steps taken to protect the international financial system from abuse. Among them – the reaffirmation of its February 2008 public statement on money laundering and terrorist financing risks posed by Uzbekistan, Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Sao Tome and Principe and the northern part of Cyprus. The organization also discussed and adopted four mutual evaluation reports, assessing compliance with its 40 recommendations in Hong Kong, Qatar, the UAE and the Russian Federation.

Solicitor General of the British Virgin Islands, Jo-Ann Williams-Roberts, took part in this week-long plenary meeting, and the BVI was among the 5 member countries of 30 which were allowed to join the CFATF Secretariat at the meeting.

BVI Attorney General Kanthleen Quartey noted that a closer relationship between the FATF and its Caribbean counterparts would greatly benefit the CFATF, bringing issues and perspectives of the region directly to the centre stage.

The aim of the FATF which was established in 1989 is to prevent criminals from using the international financial systems. The CFATF was formed three years later as an organization of more than 30 Caribbean region states, which have united their efforts to implement common countermeasures to criminal money laundering.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Senior Management Changes in BVI FSC

BVI FSC published two press releases in June, the first one concerning completion of two five-year employee contracts with the Commission, and the second one announcing new appointments to Senior Management posts. Press release published on June 12, 2008 included information on Michael Oliver and Christopher Hill demitting the office during this month.

Mr. Oliver has served as director of insurance industry in BVI since 2003, and during his being in the post, the BVI has become the 4th largest jurisdiction for Captive Insurance. It is mentioned in the press release that in this post he established a number of Insurance Regulatory Training Initiatives not only for FSC but also for Insurance Regulators in the region. Mr. Oliver also played great role in the promotion of the BVI's new Insurance Act passed in the beginning of the year.

Mr. Hill was recruited as the BVI's first director of Insolvency Services, having the specific task of setting up the FSC's insolvency regime and implementing the provisions of Insolvency Act, 2003 – including recruitment and training of staff, designing systems and controls, advising on legislation and regulations and providing licenses to Insolvency Practitioners.

On June 19, 2008, the new appointments were announced: Mr. David Abednego was named as the new Acting Director of Insolvency services, while Mr. Elton Lettsome became the Acting Director of Insurance sector. Mr. Abednego is an attorney who was admitted to practice law in the BVI in 1998; in 2004 he started to work in the FSC, was assigned to the Insolvency Services Division in the role of Deputy Director, Insolvency Services and Deputy Official Receiver, and was the principal assistant to Mr. Hill. Now, in the role of Acting Director, Insolvency Services/Official Receiver, Mr. Abednego will lead the Commission's Insolvency Services Division and serve as the Territory's Official Receiver.

Mr. Elton Lettsome became associated with Insurance regulation in 1992, when he was recruited by the Ministry of Finance of BVI as an Assistant Regulator. Mr. Lettsome who holds a Bachelors of Science Degree in Finance from the University of Florida, has represented the Commission at various international insurance seminars, conferences and workshops.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

PRC Remains Most Attractive Destination of FDI, BVI Ranks 2nd Among FDI sources

The Ministry of Commerce of China published figures for actual FDI inflows into the country's economy, totaling $42.78 billion from January to May 2008 – this is a 54.97% increase from the previous year. Only in May, FDI stood at $7.76 billion, that is 37.94 % higher than in the previous year.

According to the information published by the Ministry of Commerce, about 11,915 new overseas-funded enterprises were established in the first five months of this year, that is down 20.95% from the previous year, and in May there were 2,425 new enterprises – down 10.94%.

The top three leading countries in the five months of the year 2008 by the amount of FDI are the same as in the statistical bulletin for the first quarter of the year 2008 – Hong Kong, British Virgin Islands (in the second place), and Singapore.

By the results of this statistical bulletin, as well as according to the Ernst & Young latest survey among business leaders, China is still in the first place among the countries most attractive for foreign direct investments. This survey reflected more equal distribution of global investments across the world, and 41% of respondents still ranked China as the most attractive investment destination, followed by India and Russia. However, China still draws less than 8% of global volume of FDI inflows, according to the information published by the United Nations Commission for Trade and Development.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Digicel Announces the Appointment of New CEO of British Virgin Islands

Digicel, the fastest growing mobile operator in the Caribbean and new entrant to the Central American market, has announced this week the promotion of Alan Bates to the position of Digicel CEO British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Alan Bates is a 10-year telecommunications industry expert and former sales director for Digicel Bermuda and the Dutch Caribbean. Prior to joining Digicel he worked as a consultant and held a number of senior sales and management positions in the Irish telecommunications company ESAT. He has worked with Digicel since 2003 in many posts, being head of sales and distribution for Digicel Aruba and head of sales and distribution for the Dutch Caribbean region. In 2006, he was promoted to sales director for Bermuda subsidiary where he played an instrumental role on the team that led Digicel to the number one position in the market, increased the total number of subscribers by more than 100% since 2006, and made Digicel Bermuda as the number one cellular provider in the market.

Kevin White, Digicel Group COO, has commented on the appointment of Alan Bates in BVI: “As CEO, Alan will leverage his vast experience to ensure Digicel's entry into BVI delivers crystal clear coverage, excellent customer care and innovative services that offer customers the best value for their money”.

After Digicel was granted a GSM license in December 2007, to operate in the British Virgin Islands, the company is set to launch its 24th market before the end of the year 2008. Now the company is looking forward to build a state-of-the-art network, and provide close to 100% population coverage. In December 2007, Digicel recorded six million customers, having invested more than US$2 billion in 23 markets.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Vietnam Attracts More than Double FDI Level in January-May 2008, BVI Ranking the Second

The Foreign Investment Agency of Vietnam has published a report on foreign direct investments in the economy of the country, from January to May 2008. The Agency informed that the level of Foreign Direct Investments attracted in this period was 2.6 times higher than in the same period last year, and reached $15.3 billion.

It is stated in the report that 130 foreign investment projects worth a cumulative $7.5 billion received licences in May, so the total number of new projects licensed this year was 324, worth more than $14.7 billion. Additionally, 132 FDI projects raised their combined capital by $605 mln this year, representing an increase of 67% over the same period of 2007.

FDI increase was attributed to a dozen of newly-licensed projects, which have large-scale investment of over $1 billion. The largest foreign investment project of the reported period is the $4.2 billion tourist centre, five-star hotel and entertainment complex being built by the Canada-based Asian Coast Development Ltd. in the southern province of Vietnam. This project, together with two others at a combined worth of $4.23 billion, moved Canada from the 22nd to the first place in the list of FDI investors. As in the previous statistics published, British Virgin Islands are in the second place with $2.69 billion, and Singapore with $2.23 billion is the third.

$13 billion (83% of the total FDI for the reported period) of the total FDI amount went to the service sector, $2.35 billion were invested into the industry and construction sectors, the remainder going into the agro-forestry-fishery sectors of Vietnam's economy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Robert Mathavious Speaking on the BVI Regulatory Environment During his Visit to the Middle East

On May 22, the Financial Services Commission has published on its site the speeches of BVI FSC managing director and CEO Robert Mathavious when he presented the Regulatory Environment in the British Virgin Islands during his visits to Dubai and Qatar, to the business communities of these countries. The presentations had the purpose to deepen their understanding of BVI's approach to the regulation, and of the benefits this approach brings for offshore jurisdiction's customers.

The presentation included information on the BVI Financial Services Commission in the role of independent regulator, on the FSC's approach to the regulation, and on the other related items. Robert Mathavious specially pointed out that the BVI FSC is not any kind of governmental institution, but an independent regulatory body, the duties of which cover insurance, banking, trustee business, company management and mutual funds sectors, as well as administration of companies registration, limited partnerships and intellectual property, and any kinds of non-banking financial intermediary services.

The head of the Commission named the three building blocks in the regulation approach – pragmatism, consultation and investment. The main objectives within the FSC and within the financial industry in the BVI mentioned by Robert Mathavious were the effective and appropriate training and development of staff and the recognition of the importance of professional qualifications. Programmes and procedures to counter money laundering and terrorism financing were also among the Commission's priorities.

Another item touched upon in the presentation is the good reputation of the British Virgin Islands, which is achieved by the jurisdiction's active engagement in all international initiatives, and by “active and balanced response to meeting international concerns”.

In his speech, Robert Mathavious referred to the last months event that confirmed the status of the BVI as a leading and competitive global finance centre – the inclusion of the offshore jurisdiction in the Global Financial Centres Index published by the City of London. This index is based upon 19,000 assessments from business professionals worldwide, and the BVI was placed in the 27th place among 69 financial centres, just behind Gibraltar, the Cayman Islands and Dubai.

New Intelligence Unit Launched in BVI

In the beginning of May, a joint intelligence unit was launched in the British Virgin Islands, by representatives of BVI law enforcement agencies BVI Police Commissioner Reynell Frazer, Chief Immigration Officer Dennis Jennings and Senior Customs Officer Leslie Lettsome.

The new joint intelligence unit will play an important role for the enforcement of its legislation, collating, evaluating and disseminating intelligence among the three agencies.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hon. Ralph O'Neal Participating in the 47th OECS Meeting

Premier Honourable Ralph T. O'Neal is attending the 47th Meeting of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Authority, which is held on May 23-24 in St. Lucia. Premier officially participated in the previous 46th OECS Meeting which took place on January 16-18 in the Commonwealth of Dominica.

On May 21, 2008, in his speech in the Department of Information and Public Relations, Hon. Ralph O'Neal noted the British Virgin Islands Government is interested in several items of Meeting's agenda, including an update on the establishment of a new OECD Secretariat Headquarters, report on the relationship of the non-independent member states in the context of a draft treaty with the EU, and the impact of the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) on the yachting sector in the sub-region. Some other issues to be presented on the OECS Authority Meeting concern the secretarial budget for the 2008-2009 financial year, the report from its budget committee, and the 2008-2009 work programme.

By words of Premier, the Government of the Territory is “keen to maintain positive and mutually beneficial relationship with its associates in the OECS region”, and will follow this strategy in all the discussions of the Meeting.

The 47th meeting of the organisation will be run by the new OECS Chairman, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell of Grenada. The member states of the organisation are the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. BVI obtained the status of an associate member of the OECS in 1984.