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.