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.