Wednesday, December 21, 2011

BVI FSC Publishes Financial Statistics for Q2 and Q3 of the Year

Last week, the BVI Financial Services Commission published the twenty-third and twenty-fourth volumes of its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, providing information on financial services activities in the territory in the second quarter and the third quarter of 2011, respectively.

In the second quarter period, ended 30 June 2011, there were 15,689 business companies newly registered in the BVI, as compared to 12,815 in the same quarter of 2010. Also, there were 13 Limited Partnerships registered in the second quarter of the year. According to the Banking and Fiduciary Services statistics for commercial banks, in this period total assets were US$2,419 mln, cash items were US$717,028 mln, loans and advances were US$$1,529 mln, total liabilities were about US$2 mln.

Total number of Licensed Insolvency Practitioners, including Full and Restricted Licenses, in the second quarter of 2011 was 25. In the sphere of Legal and International Cooperation, there were 24 International Cooperation Matters, and 44 Enforcement Matters. The Licensing and Supervisory Committee (LSC) in these three months has reviewed 538 matters.

The twenty-fourth volume of the BVI Financial Services Commission's Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, providing information on financial services activities in the third quarter of 2011, informs about 17,056 business companies incorporated in this period. Cumulative number of business companies as at 30 September 2011 was 457,331. In the third quarter of 2011, 12 Limited Partnerships were established, cumulative number of Limited Partnerships was 545.

According to the Banking and Fiduciary Services statistics, total assets in this period were US$$2,450 mln, cash items were US$724,6 mln, loans and advances were US$1,582 mln, total liabilities were US$2,028 mln.

According to Legal and International Cooperation Statistics, in the third quarter of 2011 there were 38 International Cooperation Matters, and 31 Enforcement Matters; 357 matters were reviewed by the Licensing and Supervisory Committee.

Monday, December 12, 2011

BVI FSC Launched New Financial Management Website

Last week, the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission launched a new website, dedicated to helping individuals make sound and well informed financial decisions.

According to the information published by the Commission, website offers free, independent and unbiased financial information and advice focused on helping people become better personal finance consumers. Managing director of the BVI FSC, Robert Mathavious, said in his comments: “This website is truly a comprehensive resource that can serve as a one stop shop for critical information on managing personal financial affairs.”

MoneyMattersBVI is a result of the FSC's financial literacy programme launched in the BVI. The new BVI website provides information on a wide range of topics, among them – the ways how to budget, save, invest, start a business, manage, debt, plan for retirement and avoid fraud. It also has useful tools such as calculators and downloadable content.

Friday, December 02, 2011

UK Government Strengthens Relationship with Overseas Territories

The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) highlighted progress made in strengthening its relationship with the Overseas Territories, including British Virgin Islands.

The consultations that were held during the Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC) were focused on the forthcoming White Paper on enhancing the UK's relationship with Overseas Territories, on strengthening the Overseas Territories' international financial centres and stimulating economic growth in the jurisdictions. According to the FCO, the meetings also covered such issues as good governance, financial management, economic planning and taxation policy.

The FCO noted that 2011 was a “landmark year for Overseas Territories”.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Annual OTCC Meeting to be Held in London

During the Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC) meeting, which is held annually in London since 1999, and this year will be held on 23-24 November, the UK government will discuss new strategy for its Overseas Territories.

The meeting will be hosted by Henry Bellingham, Foreign Office Minister for the Overseas Territories. It will be visited by premiers, chief ministers and elected representatives from UK Overseas Territories. There will also be ministers from the Departments for International Development; Transport; Environment; Energy and Climate Change; the Treasury; Home Office; Ministry of Defence; Culture, Media and Sport; and Business, Innovation and Skills.

Speaking on the event, Bellingham said: “I look forward to discussing with Territory leaders their ideas for the development of our partnership which will help us develop our thinking for the White Paper on the Overseas Territories that we intend to publish next year."

During the OTCC meeting, the leaders and elected representatives will attend a reception hosted by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and will have bilateral meetings with Bellingham. From the British Virgin Islands, the OTCC meeting will be attended by the newly elected Premier Dr Orlando Smith.

Friday, November 11, 2011

BVI General Elections Won by Opposition

This week, it was announced by election officials that the main opposition National Democratic Party (NDP) had won the November 7 general elections in the British Virgin Islands territory. NDP received 9 of 13 parliamentary seats, while the party of outgoing Premier Ralph O'Neal won 4 seats, down from 11 in the previous Parliament.

The NDP, led by Dr. Orlando Smith who held the premier office in 2003-2007, promised to safeguard the sectors of financial services and tourism, which are especially important for country's economy.

Voter turnout was reported to about 75 percent of the 12,600 voters.

Former Premier and the leader of Virgin Islands Party (VIP), in a public speech has congratulated the newly elected Premier, Hon. Dr. Orlando Smith. He said that this is not the first time that he has been in the opposition, and that he looks forward to working with the new National Democratic Party Government in the new House of Assembly.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

International Law Firm Opens Offices in BVI and Singapore

International financial services provider Bedell Trust has announced plans to open new offices in the British Virgin Islands and Singapore. After this, in addition to continuing to service its European-based clients out of Jersey, company's British Virgin Islands legal team, based at Bedell Cristin Jersey, will establish physical presence both in the BVI and Singapore. The BVI law team will also closely co-operate with the Channel Islands offices in providing multi-jurisdictional financial services solutions to customers from Asia.

Bedell Trust will also form an affiliation with an established BVI corporate management services company to support the provision of BVI corporate services to its clients. The company announced that the developments "are central to the Bedell strategy to provide multi-jurisdictional legal and fiduciary services in the key locations where our international client base demands them”.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Guidelines Published by BVI FSC

The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission has published Guidelines in Relation to use of Restricted Company Names, having effect from 17 October, 2011. In the Introduction to the document it is stated that the Commission is empowered by the BVI Business Companies Act, 2004 to specify words or phrases to be restricted for purposes of incorporation, continuation, etc. The BVI BCA introduces the concept of restricted company name whereby a company that has as part of its name a restricted word of phrase cannot be registered unless it has the written consent of the Commission, whether in relation to incorporation, continuation, merger or consolidation.

Part I of the document relates to the Regulatory legislation, which prohibits the use by any person of certain specific names or phrases, and covers the terms named in Banks and Trust Companies Act, 1990, Company Management Act, 1990, Insurance Act, 2008, Securities and Investment Business Act, 2010 (SIBA). The second part of the Guidelines relates to Registry legislation (generally companies), and covers current requirements in relation to company name endings, restrictions on the use of company names. It also includes BVI Business Companies (restricted company names) notice, 2011. Part III of the document is the Guide to Applying for Consent/Approval for Use of a Restricted Name.

The Schedule includes Application for the consent or approval of the Financial Services Commission to use a restricted name. The Guidelines were approved by the Board of Commissioners on 30 August, 2011, and issued by the Financial Services Commission on September 15, 2011.

Friday, October 14, 2011

UK Overseas Territories Attorneys General Conference being Held in Cayman Islands

This week, the 20th annual conference was opened in the Cayman Islands, where meet attorneys general from British Overseas Territories, including British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos, Pitcairn and the Cayman Islands. Attorneys general from Bermuda, the South Atlantic Territories of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Falkland Islands and Gibraltar are not present at the meeting.

During the conference, the attorneys general discuss the important issues for their countries with the solicitor general for England and Wales and MP, Edward Garnier, QC, who is the conference chairman, and other officials from the UK, and the Justice Departments of the US and Canada.

Garnier said that in July the National Security Council of the UK government had confirmed the UK's fundamental policy and objective to ensure the security and good governance of the 14 Overseas Territories of the United Kingdom. He also acknowledged the special challenges that attorneys general face in their everyday work, and recognised that the British Dependent territories are very diverse, requiring specifically tailored policies.

Garnier said that, despite the constitutional arrangements between the UK and the Overseas Territories, they should jointly work to improve the link, strengthen mutual ties, good governance and financial management as well as the quality and range of support to the OTs.

Monday, October 03, 2011

UK Launches Consultations with Overseas Territories

Henry Bellingham, Minister of State at Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who is in charge of overseas territories, has formally launched a consultation process in respect of the new White Paper that will be produced and published in 2012 on the UK's relationship with its Overseas Territories, including British Virgin Islands. In a speech during his visit to Bermuda, Mr. Bellingham said that the UK government's strategy towards the Overseas Territories focuses on the following areas: strengthening the engagement and interaction between the UK and the Territories, working with territories to strengthen good governance arrangements, public financial management and economic planning where this is necessary; and improving the quality and range of support available to the territories.

Bellingham said that the period of consultation is “for the purpose of identifying what we can do to improve the functioning of the relationship between the UK and each Overseas Territory in the three broad areas defined.”

All the leaders of the Overseas Territories will be able to discuss the White Paper when they meet on the annual Overseas Territories Consultative Council, which will take place in London on November 23-24.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BVI FSC Informs on New FATF Public Statement

The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission has published on the home page a Public Statement of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which was issued as an update to the FATF statements previously issued in October, 2010, and in February, 2011. The updated statement identified jurisdictions with strategic anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) deficiencies that have not made sufficient progress in addressing these issues. These are Bolivia, Cuba, Ethiopia, Kenya, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Syria and Turkey.

The Commission advised the public to note the concerns expressed by the FATF with respect to the named jurisdictions, and consider the money laundering and/or terrorist financing risks associated and apply appropriate due diligence measures when dealing with customers or transactions involving any of these jurisdictions.

There was also a separate document published by the FATF and named “Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-Going Process”, with the updated statements regarding certain jurisdictions that have committed to improve their AML/CFT frameworks. Among other jurisdictions, the statement identifies Greece as having made significant progress in improving its AML/CFT regime.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

BVI Ranked First in the Region for Best Quality of Life

In a report which was recently released by FDI Intelligence, a division of the Financial Times of London, the British Virgin Islands was ranked in the top first place in the list of countries of the Caribbean and Central America.

The report was published based on data compiled by the division of the Financial Times ans scored by an independent judging panel. Judging criteria for the category, which the BVI was the first, was based on multiple factors including life expectancy, infant mortality, unemployment rate, GDP per capita, crime and secondary enrollment rate.

Neil Blyden, chairman of the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board, said in his comments on the BVI ranking: "We are pleased to receive this recognition and we look forward to sharing these wonderful attributes with visitors to the destination... From our pristine beaches and exhilarating natural attractions to our friendly people, award-winning cuisine and outstanding accommodations, the BVI is a destination made for such superlatives."

Thursday, September 01, 2011

UK HMRC Targets Information-sharing Agreements with BVI and Panama

HM Revenue and Customs is planning to extend his crackdown on tax havens used by the British citizens to move their assets. After targeting Switzerland and Liechtenstein, HMRC will aim to reach information-sharing agreements with Panama and the British Virgin Islands.

It is believed that substantial sums of tax are being evaded by owners of property in London whose identity remains unknown to the UK authorities, and HMRC is looking closely at countries which have strict secrecy laws relating to legal ownership of companies and banking – including BVI.

Offshore jurisdictions are pressed by the other countries to bring in more transparency. The UK Coalition Government has strengthened the pressure on the British people holding money in Jersey by bringing in a new penalty of 200 per cent of the tax evaded by people who do not disclose money held there.

Friday, August 26, 2011

BVI Financial Investigation Agency Signed MOUs with Six Countries

The British Virgin Islands Financial Investigation Agency (BVI FIA) has signed six Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the Financial Intelligence Units of the following countries: Russia, Moldova, Macedonia, Poland, Australia and Montenegro. On behalf of the BVI FIA, the MOUs were signed by its Director Mr Errol George.

The MOUs were signed with the purpose to foster cooperation between the BVI FIA and the Financial Intelligence Units from other countries, which are all members of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, with respect to the exchange of financial information and intelligence in support of the investigation and prosecution of persons suspected of money laundering and/or terrorism financing.

The Memoranda of Understanding were signed at the 19th Egmont Group's Plenary held in Yerevan, Armenia on July 11-15, 2011.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

BVI FSC Issues Quarterly Statistical Bulletin

The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission has issued regular volume of Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, providing information on financial services activities in the jurisdiction in the first quarter of 2011.

According to the information published by the Registry of Corporate Affairs, in the reported period 19,010 Business companies were registered, a significant increase as compared to 14,267 companies registered in the fourth quarter of 2010, and to 16,596 companies registered in the first quarter of 2010. In fact, the number of companies registered in the reported period approached the level of the year 2008, when in Q1 20,752 companies were registered. Cumulative number of Business companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands by the end of Q1 2011 was 456,146. Also, in the period that ended March 31, 2011, 25 new Limited Partnerships were registered, cumulative number of Limited Partnerships by the end of Q1 2011 was 521.

By the statistics of Banking and Fiduciary Services sector, in the first quarter of 2011 two Class I trusts licences were issued. Cumulatively, there were 223 currently licensed entities as at March 31, 2011.

The statistics of Banking Sector for commercial banks showed the following figures: total assets were US$2,408 mln, cash items were US$729,2, loans and advances made US$1,538 mln, total liabilities were US$2,011 mln.

According to the Investment business statistics, 57 mutual funds were registered in Q1 2011; of them 45 are professional funds and 12 are private funds. Cumulative number of mutual funds as of March 31, 2011 was 2673. The Investment business statistics has also shown that 90 mutual funds licences and 8 Investment business licences were cancelled.

In the Insurance industry, one licence was granted in Q1 2011, cumulative number of insurance and functionaries licences as at 31 March 2011 was 41. In the sphere of Legal and International co-operation there were 35 International Co-operation Matters, 32 of them were formal requests requiring disclosure of the non-public information.

In the first quarter period, there were 452 matters before the Licensing and Supervisory Committee, and one matter of on-site inspection.

Other statistical data, facts and figures can be found on the site of Financial Services Commission of the British Virgin Islands.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

BVI FSC Publishes Guidance Notes for Compliance Inspectors

The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission has published Code of Conduct for Compliance Inspectors, which will serve as a guidance for members of Commission's Compliance Inspection Team while carrying out the inspection duties.

This Code of Conduct establishes basic standards to be maintained by all inspectors while conducting compliance inspections of the Commission's licensees. Also, the Code of Conduct serves as a guide to the Commission's licensees in terms of what they expect of the conduct of inspectors during an inspection process.

According to the published document, the inspectors must comply with the provisions of the Act and other current statutes or statutory provisions which may be applicable to their functions, including the Commission’s Compliance Inspection Procedures Manual and any guidelines issued by the Commission.

The Code of Conduct sets the duties of Compliance Inspectors, which include duty to discharge responsibilities with integrity, duty to maintain proper records, duty to work within the scope of available resources, duty not to attempt to damage the professional reputation of another inspector or of the Commission, and the need to maintain confidentiality. The document sets relationship between inspectors and the inspections coordinator, and establishes the rules applicable in cases of conflicts of interest. The document also covers other issues concerning the conduct of Compliance Inspectors.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

FSC Issues Public Announcement on BVI Mutual Fund

The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission issued public statement informing the general public, including investors and creditors, that Advantage Finance European Futures Fund Ltd is no longer recognised by the FSC as a private mutual fund.

According to the document published by the Commission, the Fund was incorporated in the territory of the British Virgin Islands on 5 March, 1999. It was formerly recognised by the Commission as a private mutual fund to conduct mutual fund business within the territory. On 1 November, 2008 it was struck off the company register maintained by the BVI Registrar of Corporate Affairs, for the non-payment of company registration fees.

The Certificate of recognition of Advantage Finance European Futures Fund Ltd was cancelled on 15 December, 2010 as a result of non-payment of its recognition fees in 2008, 2009 and 2010. At the same time, the Fund has been hosting and maintaining a website at www.advantage-finance.com and giving the impression that it is still active and carrying on investment business.

The FSC informed that it will provide an update on further developments on this matter.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Regulations Published by the Commission

Last week, a number of regulations was published by the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission. The documents issued by the Financial Services Commission are Financial Services (Miscellaneous Exemptions) Regulations, 2011, and Financial Services (Miscellaneous Exemptions) (Amendment) Regulations, 2011.

The first document includes the exemptions applicable to the Banks and Trust Companies Act, 1990 – from providing particulars to be specified in application for Class II and Class III restricted trust licences, from appointing an auditor for the holders of Class II and III trust licences; an exemption for company providing director, officer and nominee shareholder services only to obtain a licence under the Banks and Trust Companies Act, 1990. The document contains also an exemption for person providing director, officer and nominee shareholder services only, to obtain a licence under the Company Management Act, 1990.

The second document amends the schedule of Financial Services (Miscellaneous Exemptions) Regulations, 2011. Both documents came into force on 28 April, 2011.

Friday, June 17, 2011

BVI signed TIEA with Czech Republic

On June 13, the British Virgin Islands has signed a tax information exchange agreement (TIEA) with the Czech Republic. The Agreement was signed in Prague, the BVI was represented by the BVI's Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Social Development Dancia Penn, and the Czech Republic was represented by First Deputy Minister Ladislav Mincic.

The parties also agreed to a Protocol setting out that no prejudicial or restrictive measures will be applied to residents or nationals based on harmful tax practices.

The statement issued jointly by the governments of the British Virgin Islands and the Czech Republic, included the following: “The Czech Republic and BVI have long been active in international efforts in the fight against financial crimes and each share a common commitment to develop and comply with international standards on money laundering, terrorist financing and financial regulation. The Czech Republic recognises the BVI government's reputation as a constructive and co-operative member of the international community with a globally integrated and responsible finance centre.”

The TIEA signed by the BVI and the Czech Republic provides for the exchange of information by request on civil and criminal tax matters, in accordance with the OECD standards. This is already the twenty first Tax Information Exchange Agreement signed by the British Virgin Islands, the previous one was concluded with the Republic of India.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

BVI Premier Discusses Dormant Accounts with BVI Bank Association

The government of the British Virgin Islands continues its consultations on the proposed dormant accounts bill, which has already had its first reading in the House of Assembly of the British Virgin Islands on April 19, 2011.

On June 3, 2011, Premier and Minister of Finance Hon. Ralph T.O'Neal, OBE and Financial Secretary Mr. Neil Smith had a meeting and discussion on this matter with the members of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Bank Association.

The Bill titled “Dormant Accounts Act, 2011” is aimed to provide a framework by which unclaimed assets are ceded to and managed by the Government of the British Virgin Islands. It will also include protocols for the management of accounts and will clearly outline procedures for the claimants.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Regular Statistical Bulletin Published by BVI FSC

The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission has published the twenty-first volume of its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, providing statistics and information on financial services activities for the fourth quarter of 2010.

By the information of the Registry of Corporate Affairs, for the fourth quarter period ended 31 December 2010 there were 14,267 Business Companies newly registered, a little decline if compared to 15,946 companies in the third quarter of 2010. Cumulative number of business companies as of 31 December 2010 was 459,364. Also, there were 29 Limited Partnerships registered in Q4 2010 (cumulative number 679). In total, in the year 2010 more BVI Business Companies were registered than in 2009, but the number of new incorporations was still lower than in the years 2007 and 2008.

The Banking Sector statistics of commercial banks for the fourth quarter 2010 comprised the following figures: total assets - US$2,453 million, cash items – US$757,7 million, total liabilities – US$2,062,6 million. Net income was US$36,316, loan loss reserves were US$1,4 million.

The Investment Business statistics has shown that total number of licences granted in the fourth quarter of the year was 31, cumulative number of licences as at 31 December 2011 being 2706.

As of the end of the fourth quarter of the year, there were 20 insolvency practitioners including full and restricted licences. Cumulative number of Insurance licences granted as at 31 December 2010 was 255 (16 issued in the fourth quarter of the year).

According to the Legal and International Co-operation statistics, in Q4 2010 there were 26 International Cooperation Matters, 24 of them being formal requests, and 25 Enforcement Matters. Also, in the fourth quarter of 2010 there were 644 Matters before the Licensing and Supervisory Committee (LSC), and 5 on-site inspections.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

OECS and WTO Discuss Tariff Liberalization

The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has said during the meeting with World Trade Organization (WTO) that securing flexibility in negotiations on tariff liberalization will enable governments to avoid cuts to border taxes.

The topics discussed during the meeting of trade officials included market access for agricultural and industrial goods, trade facilitation, fisheries subsidies, intellectual property rights and services, as well as all the matters which have proved controversial.

The OECS Technical Mission in Geneva reported significant progress for the OECS in most spheres of the negotiations with World Trade Organization (WTO). By words of the head of the OECS Technical Mission, Ricardo James, in the area of tariff liberalization “a special concession has been granted to Small Vulnerable Economies (SVEs), such as the OECS member states, that will significantly modulate the depth of tariff cuts.”

The OECS recognized that more needs are to be done, in particular, in such areas as Intellectual Property Rights, Dispute Settlement and the Harmonized Liberalization of Services sectors within the context of the establishment of the OECS Economic Union. According to James, each country will have to provide an offer regarding the additional services sectors they would want to liberalize and by how much.

The British Virgin Islands is an associate member of the OECS.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

BVI FSC Published Press Releases on the Tunisia and Libya (Restrictive Measures) Orders

The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission advised the members of the public that The Tunisia (Restrictive Measures) (Overseas Territories) Order 2011 came into force on 18 March, 2011, and The Libya (Restrictive Measures) (Overseas Territories) Order 2011 (the “Order”) came into force on 9 April, 2011.

The Order on Tunisia was made as a result of the European Union in Council Decision 2011/72/CFSP on 31 January, 2011 and implemented in the European Union Council Regulation (EU) No. 101/2011 that was adopted on 4 February, 2011 and called upon member states to introduce restrictive measures on certain persons, entities and bodies responsible for the misappropriation of Tunisian State funds. The measures stated in the Order include: prohibition on making available funds, financial assets or economic resources to designated persons, entities and bodies, freezing of these funds, and their disclosure by financial institutions. By virtue of Schedule 1 of the Order, it is extended to the Virgin Islands.

The Libya (Restrictive Measures) (Overseas Territories) Order 2011 was made as a result of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970 (2011) adopted on 26 February, 2011 and Resolution 1973 (2011) adopted on 17 March, 2011 which called upon member states to apply certain measures to give effect to decisions of that Council in relation to Libya. The Order introduced restrictive measures in respect on Libya as a result of the continuing serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the country. Among the measures there is a prohibition on the supply or export of arms, and on making available funds, financial assets or economic resources to designated persons and entities. The Order is extended to the Virgin Islands by virtue of Schedules 1 and 2.

Monday, April 25, 2011

BVI Delegates to Participate in Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Conference

The 15th Annual Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference (CHTIC), which will take place in Jamaica on May 10-12, will attract plenty of financial industry executives, developers and financiers as parties that are interested in taking advantage of the next big growth stage in the Caribbean tourism industry. Also, the Conference will be attended by government officials, investors, lenders, architects, financial organizations, real estate/mortgage intermediaries and other organizations and persons related to tourism.

By words of Alec Sanguinetti, director general and CEO of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, potential delegates from the British Virgin Islands can take advantage of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Investment Conference to meet with investors and other delegates conducting business in the Caribbean region.

The program of the Conference will include the keynote address of Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism for Jamaica, named “Tourism Investments…Key to Caribbean Growth.” Also, the President of Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association Josef Forstmayr will also speak at the opening ceremony upon the importance of investments in the Caribbean jurisdictions to help maintain their economic stability.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Offshore Group of Banking Supervisors Extends its Role and Rebrands

The Offshore Group of Banking Supervisors has decided to rebrand itself the 'Group of International Finance Centre Supervisors’ (GIFCS). This decision followed the broadening of the role of the Group as a representative on behalf of numerous offshore financial centres in issues related to financial sector regulation standards. According to GIFCS chairman Colin Powell, the change has been made to reflect more accurately the current scope of the Group's activities.

Powell also said, “When the OGBS was formed in 1980, through the initiative of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, its mandate was limited to banking supervision. With the passage of time the Group has been increasingly recognized by relevant international organizations as a representative body that is also making a valuable contribution to combating money laundering/terrorism financing, the regulation of trust and company service providers, and most recently the regulation of hedge funds.

The GIFCS has observer status with the FATF on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, it also has a close working relationship with the Basel Committee. The Group plays active role in promoting compliance with international standards.

In 2002 the Group of International Finance Centre Supervisors published a best practice paper of trust and company service providers. Recently it has produced a paper on hedge fund regulation, and has sought to establish a working relationship with International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO).

Beside the British Virgin Islands, the members of the GIFCS are Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Labuan, Macau China, Mauritius, Panama, Samoa, Vanuatu and the Central Bank of Curacao and Saint Maarten. The new member jurisdictions are included in the Group if they meet certain conditions relating to their commitment to the relevant international standards.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

BVI rating raised in Global Financial Centres Index

The jurisdiction of the British Virgin Islands has become the only offshore financial centre the rating of which improved in the latest edition of Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI 9), while other jurisdictions, including Bahamas, showed decline that had started with the beginning of the global financial crisis in 2008. GFTI rating of the BVI raised by two points and achieved 40th place in the ranking. Executive Director of the BVI International Finance Centre Sheri Ortiz considers that the BVI's boost in the ninth edition of the GFCI is for the centre's ongoing commitment to regulation, transparency and continued growth in the financial services offering of the jurisdiction.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

BVI Premier Visits OECS Special Meeting

Premier and Minister of Finance in the British Virgin Islands, Hon. Ralph T. O'Neal, has visited a special one-day meeting of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Authority in Antigua. The main focus of the meeting are the contributions of OECS member states, other agenda items are the future staff and skill requirements at the OECS Commission, the financing of the OECS Economic Union Organs, along with the resources deployed in the overseas diplomatic and technical missions.

During his visit, the Premier is accompanied by Ms. Najan Christopher, the Assistant Secretary in the Premier's Office (External Affairs), and the Premier's Private Secretary, Ms. Marsha Gumbs.

The British Virgin Islands is an associate member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States since November 1984. Other members are Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Montserrat. Anguilla, as well as the British Virgin Islands, is an associate member of the OECS.

Monday, February 28, 2011

BVI FSC Published Amendment to Anti-Money Laundering Legislation

The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission has published on its site the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Code of Practice, 2010. According to the document, Schedule 2 of the Anti-money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Code of Practice, 2008 is amended by inserting the two countries – Liechtenstein and Russia.

The Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Code of Practice was issued on July 28, 2010. The document is signed by Managing Director/CEO of the Commission Robert Mathavious.

Monday, February 14, 2011

BVI Signed Twentieth TIEA

The Government of the British Virgin Islands has signed Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the Republic of India. The Agreement was signed by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Social Development Honourable Dancia Penn OBE QC and the High Commissioner of India to the UK His Excellency, Nalin Surie.

In a Joint Declaration signed with the TIEA both parties state that their countries are active, constructive and cooperative members of the international community with globally integrated and responsible finance centres. It is also stated that India and BVI have long been active in international efforts in the fight against financial crimes, and each of them shares a common commitment to develop and comply with international standards on money laundering, terrorist financing and financial regulation.

Honourable Dancia Penn welcomed this agreement, saying that India is a key market for financial services business of the British Virgin Islands. Also, she said that the BVI is fully committed to pursuing further discussions with the Government of the Republic of India, and the jurisdiction will look to build on the important trading and cultural ties that already exist between the countries.

The Agreement with India is the 20th TIEA of the British Virgin Islands. To answer the OECD guidelines and the new international tax standard, jurisdictions are required to sign at least 12 TIEAs.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

New Lawyers Join Harney's Hong Kong Office

The British Virgin Islands-based offshore law firm Harneys Corporate Services Limited, providing administration services to the BVI corporations, has increased the number of lawyers in its HK office, as a part of ongoing expansion of its Asian practice.

The hire of the three new lawyers brought to eight the number of lawyers in the firm's Hong Kong office. Cheng Cheng Tan joined the BVI firm from Rahmat Lim & Partners, where she was a partner. Her spheres are banking and finance as well as corporate and commercial law, with a focus on securities listings, joint ventures and cross-border mergers and acquisitions. Kane Guo, who joined Harneys from another leading international offshore law firm, specializes in M&A, FDI and banking. Kane's practice areas include corporate and commercial, investment funds and private equity. The third lawyer, Zhao Feifei, practices banking and finance, corporate and commercial law.

The head of Harneys' Hong Kong office, Paul Law, welcomed the new hires to the office, saying that the new lawyers “will add both onshore and offshore experience and regional perspectives to the team.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

BVI Premier Speaking on BVI Business Opportunities

Last week, 2011 BVI Business Outlook conference was held at the Scrub Island Resort, under the theme "Embracing the New Normal - Rising to the challenges of a more competitive and regulated global economy". This conference was attended by more than 200 delegates from the public and private sectors of the financial services, tourism and telecommunications areas.

BVI Premier and Minister of Finance Hon. Ralph T. O´Neal, OBE, expressed his opinion that it was “quite fitting and timely” that the conference was being held at the beginning of the year, after the “economic uncertainties” of 2010. He also said that “it is no longer business as usual in the Virgin Islands”, and the unique solutions must be found for the unique problems. The Premier named some significant events over the past years that impacted the economic landscape, including the shift of standards that govern cross-border taxation, the exploration of the major financial centers in the world, and the election of the first African-American president in the United States.

The Premier and the Finance Minister said that there are many existing possibilities regarding the future of the BVI territory's economy, but but the established institutions, various legal frameworks, practices and policies “must be robust and sustainable”. He also said that "In the development of our tourism and financial services sectors, we must ensure that it takes place to further the overall development of the Territory. We must also ensure that we are ever conscious of the challenges in the changes that will occur worldwide in those sectors."

Other speakers who made their presentations at the conference included BVI Financial Secretary Mr. Neil Smith, Managing Director of the Financial Services Commission Mr. Robert Mathavious, Executive Director of the BVI International Finance Centre Ms. Sherri Ortiz, and Ms. Haddassah, Director of the BVI Tourist Board. The keynote address was delivered by the former Premier of Bermuda.

Monday, January 17, 2011

BVI FSC Informed on the Update of FATF Public Statement

In December of the last year, the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission published information on the update of the FATF public statement which was issued on 18 February, 2010. On 22 October, 2010, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) reaffirmed the blacklisting of Iran and North Korea. The BVI FSC advised the public to note the concerns with respect of these jurisdictions, and consider the money laundering and terrorist financing risks associated with them. When dealing with either North Korea or Iran businesses or customers, general public members are advised to apply appropriate or enhanced customer due diligence measures.

The same day of October, FATF published another statement under the name “Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: Update On-Going Process”, providing updated statements on the jurisdictions that have committed to improve their AML/CFT frameworks.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Public Funds Code Issued by the Commission

In the end of December, the Public Funds Code, 2010 was issued by the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission. Consultation draft of the Public Funds Code was published in June 2010. The legislative document shall come into force on the 31st of March, 2011. As the Public Code is issued under SIBA, it has the status of delegated, or subsidiary legislation. As subsidiary legislation, the Public Funds Code has the status of law in the British Virgin Islands.

Part I of the legislative document names the four general principles for public fund business: integrity, management and control, keeping interests of investors, and relationship with Commission in an open and cooperative manner. Part II concerns operation of Public Funds, including the following issues:
- corporate governance (the number of directors of public funds, responsibility of governing body for business and affairs of the public fund);
- establishment of policies and procedures, including the cases of conflicts of interest;
- segregation and safekeeping of fund property, including custodial arrangements and procedures, issue and redemption of fund interests;
- valuation and pricing including establishment of valuation policy and procedures and independence of valuation process, pricing and price overrides, NAV reports, disclosure to investors;
- dealing and managing by functionaries;
- record keeping;
- relationship and reporting to the Commission;
disclosure to investors and changes to investor rights.


In the Schedule 1 of the Public Funds Code it is stated what kind of information must be contained in prospectus of public fund. Schedule 2 names events and changes to be notified to the Commission, and time limits for notification for each event.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

BVI FSC Appointed Liquidator to Whitten Trust

In December 2010, the Financial Services Commission issued public statement informing that, upon its application, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, High Court of Justice of the Virgin Islands appointed the official receiver as liquidator for Whitten Trust Company Limited. Whitten Trust was licensed to carry on trust business in February 1999, being the holder of the Class I trust licence and one of companies of Whitten Capital Group.

The BVI FSC took enforcement action against the trust in September, 2008. In January, 2009, the Commission issued public announcement to inform on the appointment of Joint Administrators for Whitten Trust.

The application of the FSC to appoint a liquidator to a trust which is subject to ongoing enforcement action is in the public interest. Whitten Trust had contravened various provisions of financial services legislation, failed to appoint a board of directors of suitable management team, could not satisfy the prescribed capital requirements and achieve the required level of solvency. All this is enough for Commission to decide that the company did not satisfy the criteria of Class I trust licence holder.