Monday, December 30, 2013

New Arbitration Act Approved by the House of Assembly

The British Virgin Islands House of Assembly had the final reading of the new Arbitration Act 2013, which was part of the work produced by the Arbitration Focus Group – a committee comprised of public and private sector representatives. In modernising BVI arbitration framework, the Arbitration Focus Group focused on updating the Territory’s arbitration legislation, as well as procuring the extension of the New York Convention to the BVI, and creating an administrative body to facilitate arbitration in the jurisdiction

The new Act incorporates the UNCITRAL model law on arbitration, as amended in July 2006, into the British Virgin Islands domestic law. Also, the new legislation modernizes the provisions for the enforcement of foreign arbitration awards in the BVI, and provides for the creation of a new statutory body: the BVI International Arbitration Centre. It includes changes providing arbitration awards to be exempt from local stamp duty and from any charges under the Income Tax Act or the Payroll Taxes Act. 

The new Arbitration Act also grants various additional powers to the British Virgin Islands courts to support and assist the conduct of arbitration proceedings.

The previous arbitration legislation in the jurisdiction was the Arbitration Act - a synthesis of the English Arbitration Acts of 1950 and 1975, regarded as unsuitable for modern cross-border arbitration.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Premier Addresses the House of Assembly with Medium Term Fiscal Plan

In addressing the House of Assembly on December 17, BVI Premier and Minister of Finance Dr. D. Orlando Smith was talking about the Medium Term Fiscal Plan of the BVI Government. By his words, the strategies and initiatives included on the plan over the next three years would have the purpose to ensure the fiscal sustainability of the British Virgin Islands, fostering economic growth, social development and investments into infrastructure. The Premier said that the strategic undertakings include channeling resources to health, social development, education, business and entrepreneurship development.

The Premier told the House: “The approach that we have taken is to first clearly articulate a development strategy which embraces Social, Economic, Environmental and Direction/Governance (S.E.E.D) themes and which provides the platform for advancing the promises we made to the people of this Territory…We have identified areas where we can make simple, but effective changes to the way Government conducts its fiscal affairs.” 

The BVI Government will continue to enhance its provision of services to the public, and at the same time improve the public finance management system.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

UK Ministers Discussed Business and Investment Issues with Overseas Territories' Leaders

In the end of November, UK ministers and leaders of UK Overseas territories including BVI participated at the annual Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council which took place in London.

During the event, the UK and Overseas territories’ governments agreed on setting out further steps to promote business, trade and investment opportunities. They also agreed to co-operate in the spheres of education, environment and energy, as well as governance and security issues and international financial services regulations

The UK Minister for Overseas Territories Mark Simmonds commented on the meeting: “I was delighted to host this year’s Joint Ministerial Council and greatly valued my discussions with the leaders of the overseas territory governments. There was a real sense of progress towards our shared ambition for the Territories as vibrant and flourishing communities. We are working together to support economic growth and job creation and to demonstrate that the territories are among the best places in the world to do business.”

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thirty-Second Volume of Quarterly Statistical Bulletin Published by BVI FSC

BVI Financial Services Commission has published the thirty-second volume of its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, comprising statistics and other important information on financial services industry in the British Virgin Islands during the three months period ended September 2013. In the reported period, 12,809 Business Companies were incorporated in the jurisdiction, an increase if compared to 12,478 companies in the second quarter of 2013, and less than 16,251 companies incorporated in the same quarter of 2012. Cumulative number of companies registered in the BVI as at 30 September 2013 was 480,072. Also, there were 16 Limited Partnerships and 23 Private Trust Companies registered in BVI in Q3 2013, as compared to 33 and 16, respectively, in the previous quarter of this year. There were 908 Limited Partnerships and 556 Private Trust Companies registered in the jurisdiction at the end of this quarter.

In the sector of Banking and Fiduciary Services, there were 2 entities (trusts) licensed in the third quarter of 2013. In Investment Business, 39 new licenses were granted, as compared to 30 in the second quarter of 2013, and 29 in the third quarter of 2012. In Insolvency Services industry, there were 25 Insolvency Practitioners. 

In the sphere of Legal and Enforcement and International Cooperation, there were 16 Formal and 4 Informal Requests for International Co-operation, and 44 Enforcement Matters registered. There were also 94 Ongoing Supervision Matters referred to the Licensing and Supervisory Committee and related to Banking and Fiduciary Services; also, 299 related to Investment Business, 47 related to Insurance, and 2 related to Insolvency Services. There were 3 Onsite Inspections in Q3 2013, all of them related to Trust Companies.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

BVI Presents on China Offshore Summit

Martin Crawford, chief executive of Offshore Incorporations Ltd, has referred to the status of the British Virgin Islands jurisdiction as the leading one for Chinese investors and entrepreneurs, during the China Offshore Summit recently held in Shanghai and attended by more than 350 Chinese wealth planners, bankers, lawyers, and offshore professionals.

In his presentation he named the reasons why the BVI is the most complete jurisdiction for the needs of Chinese investors, among them opportunities for non tax-driven structures such as asset protection, wealth management, funds management, investment holdings, trading, special purpose vehicles, and listing vehicles for IPOs. It was stated by him as an example that 60 per cent of the multi-million dollar London properties, owned by Chinese citizens, were purchased through BVI entities.

The chief executive of one of offshore industry leaders made his presentation on behalf of the BVI International Finance Centre (BVI IFC), platinum sponsor of the summit. Christopher McKenzie, representative of BVI law firm O'Neal Webster, promoted BVI trusts on a panel discussion titled Strategies for Family Business Succession, while Janice Skelton of Newhaven Corporate Services described the benefits of the BVI on a panel on Selecting Jurisdictions for Chinese Private Wealth Management. Barry Mitchell and Charlie Sparrow of law firm Maples and Calder presented on the benefits of BVI Trusts for Asian IPOs. On the second day, there was a two-hour special feature on the BVI jurisdiction, which included presentations and panel discussions under the theme BVI: The Complete Offshore Solution. There was also an update on BVI House Asia, established in Hong Kong this year.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

BVI Office in Hong Kong Launches Financial Services Seminars

BVI House Asia, which was opened in Hong Kong by the British Virgin Islands in September this year, launched a series of seminars focused on the financial services products of the offshore jurisdiction.

The first seminar was devoted to BVI trust and estate law, and was led by Christopher McKenzie - a partner from O'Neal Webster law firm, who has chaired the STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) committee responsible for making the proposals to the BVI government to make trust innovations of 2003 and 2013. Case studies on BVI trusts in practice were also presented by Maples and Calder’s lawyers

The seminar focused on the unique features of BVI trust legislation, including VISTA (Virgin Islands Special Trusts Act) that creates a special trust regime and is very popular in Asia and particularly in Hong Kong. Another focus of the presentations was the PTC Regulations, enabling unlicensed BVI companies to be set up as a confidential way of holding trust assets.

According to the director of BVI House Asia, Lorna Smith, this seminar is a precursor to the type of activities that will be put on by BVI House Asia in Hong Kong and Asia to provide updates and education on BVI's financial services products to the practitioners in the region.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

BVI Premier and Tourist Board Delegation Visited Brazil

British Virgin Islands Premier and Minister of tourism, Dr Orlando Smith made visit to Brazil to introduce the territory to the leading tour operators, travel agents and media. During the week’s time, together with BVI Tourist Board representatives the premier visited Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, had meetings with more than 200 travel agents and presented the BVI destination, sharing the ideas of what makes it unique and attractive as a choice holiday vacation.

The BVI delegation also hosted a dinner for owners of ten major tour operators, a cocktail presentation evening for Travel Week Rio, a lunch for editors and journalists of top media houses in Sao Paolo. 

By words of director of tourism, Sharon Flax-Mars, “This is an opportune time for the British Virgin Islands to be promoted in South America… Our presence will enable us to increase awareness of the BVI and our visibility between Brazil, Argentina and Mexico which will ultimately lead to more arrivals from these countries.”

Friday, November 01, 2013

UK Minister for Overseas Territories Commends BVI FSC

Mark Simmonds, the UK Minister for Overseas Territories, in his comments in response to a question from MP Martin Horwood on the issue of international standards endorsed the strength of the BVI independent regulator, the Financial Services Commission (FSC). He named it “an extremely impressive regulator who wants to ensure that the British Virgin Islands has the highest possible international reputation.” He also said: “The (BVI) regulator wants it to be seen as a well regulated jurisdiction in order to encourage, rather than inhibit or hinder, further investment.”

Mark Simmonds also mentioned the “extremely positive” engagement by the Overseas Territories on the issue of tax transparency. His statement actually followed David Cameron’s praise of the UK Overseas Territories for the actions taken to ensure the highest standards of tax transparency. Cameron said that it was no longer fair to refer to the BVI and other similar jurisdictions as ‘tax havens’.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Founder of Virgin Group Changed UK Residence for Private BVI Island

Sir Richard Branson, British entrepreneur and investor, named by Forbes as Britain’s sixth richest resident this year, and best known as the founder of Virgin Group which includes more than 400 companies, has revealed that he had been a tax exile to the BVI for the last years.

Branson moved his main residence to the private island in the British Virgin Islands. This island, named Necker, was bought by the businessman in 1979, and has become his tax base. Now he can spend in the United Kingdom only 46 to 183 days a year. As a non-resident, he must pay tax on UK income but not on any personal earnings outside of Britain. His companies are paying corporation tax.

Branson commented on his decision to move to the Caribbean island, saying it is done for the sake of his health rather than for tax reasons.

Branson’s fortune is estimated at £3.5bn, now he earns about US$11m a year, and donates much of his income to the Virgin Unite charity, which supports entrepreneurs around the world. He does not take dividends from Virgin Group Holdings, which owns his stakes in the Virgin operating companies and is registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Friday, October 11, 2013

BVI FSC Issued Thirty First Volume of Quarterly Statistical Bulletin

The BVI Financial Services Commission has published the 31st volume of its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, informing about financial services activities in the Territory in the second quarter of 2013. In the period ended June 30, 2013, 12,478 new companies were formed, compared to 16,666 in the previous quarter of this year, and to 15,200 incorporations in the second quarter of 2012. Cumulative number of active business companies at the end of Q2 2013 was 457,151. Also, the Registry of Corporate Affairs reported of 16 Limited Partnerships and 33 Private Trust Companies formed in the second quarter of 2013.

According to Banking and Fiduciary Sector statistics, 2 entities were licensed in the BVI jurisdiction in the three months period, both of them trusts, and the total number of licensed entities was 234 as at 30 June 2013. Banking sector also reported the following fiscal results for commercial banks in the second quarter of the year (in US$ thousands): total assets - $2,470,458, deposits - $1,871,986, total shareholders’ equity was $372,570, operating income - $45,799, and net income - $24,663. 

In Investment Business Sector, 4 new Investment Business Licences were granted and 6 Investment Managers approved in the three months period. Also, 30 new Mutual Funds were licensed (21 of them Professional, and 9 Private), as compared to 39 newly licensed Mutual funds in the first quarter of 2013, and 22 funds in the second quarter of the previous year. Cumulative number of Mutual Funds as at 30 June 2013 was 2,277.

In the second quarter of the year, there were 24 Formal Requests in the sphere of International Cooperation, as well as 4 formal, and 51 Enforcement Matters. In Investment Business sector, 280 Ongoing Supervision Matters were reviewed by the Licensing and Supervisory Committee; 94 Matters referred to LSC related to Banking and Fiduciary Services, 28 related to Insurance, and 4 – to Insolvency Services.

Monday, September 30, 2013

BVI FSC Issued Guidelines for Authorised Representatives under SIBA Act

Last week, BVI FSC published a document named ‘Guidelines for Authorised Representatives Under the Securities and Investment Business Act (September 2013)’, where provided information and guidelines about functions of Authorised Representatives, their qualifying procedure, reporting requirements, and other issues. The document, published on the home page of the Commission, was approved by the Board of Commissioners on 27 August, and issued by the FSC on 10 September, 2013.

In accordance with the Securities and Investment Business Act, 2010 (“SIBA”), every licensee and public, private, professional or recognized foreign fund is required to appoint an Authorised Representative, who will act as the main intermediary between the licensee or fund and the BVI FSC. The issued Guidelines define the procedures and the proper criteria for qualifying to act as an Authorised Representative, how an application to act as an Authorised Representative must be made, and submitted to the Commission. They also inform about the beneficial ownership structure of an Authorised Representative to be certified and properly supervised by the Commission. 

It is provided by the Guidelines that a person certified as an Authorised Representative must be independent, meaning, for example, that it may not carry out any other services except for those associated with the provision of services as an Authorised Representative. Also, an Authorised Representative must be based in the British Virgin Islands, and everyday functions of the Authorised Representative must be carried out by individuals resident in the Territory.

The Guidelines state the functions and responsibilities of an Authorised Representative, as outlined in SIBA, human resource requirements, and those concerning general reporting and financial statements.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

BVI Government Invites Specialist in FATCA

The British Virgin Islands jurisdiction has invited a specialist in the United States Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which is now being discussed by the U.S. and BVI governments. The specialist will make special presentations to individuals affected by the US law. Financial Secretary Mr Neil Smith stated in his comments that specialist’s visit has the purpose of informing residents on their individual obligations under FATCA. He said: "What is important to note, is that FATCA gives the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) a new mechanism to collect information on US citizens that are not properly filing US income tax returns and reporting their bank accounts. The government really wants to ensure US citizens in the BVI are aware of their general US tax filing requirements."

 A few months ago, the BVI government commissioned professional services firm KPMG to carry out a study on FATCA, to highlight the persons who may be exempt from reporting under the law, and for better comprehension of obligations of individuals who are not exempt from compliance with the law.

Friday, September 13, 2013

'BVI House Asia' Opened in Hong Kong

The jurisdiction of the British Virgin Islands has launched Hong Kong office, which will have the functions of representing BVI in mainland China and the entire Asia Pacific region. The official opening of “BVI House Asia” was hosted by the British Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau Caroline Wilson, and took place on September 5 at the British Consulate. The event was attended by up to 100 HK professionals, as well as by leading financial services practitioners and representatives of several governments, including Hong Kong, the United States, European Union, Switzerland and Ireland.

BVI House Asia will facilitate a smooth interface between the industry in Asia and the BVI; it will allow responding to enquiries of a social, political or economic nature from the region, and promoting China’s and HK investments into the BVI economy. Other functions of the BVI office in Hong Kong will be to provide quick access for certain information services to users of BVI business companies, and to develop the relationship of the BVI with mainland China not only in financial areas but also in the spheres of education and culture. 

Through the BVI Financial Services Commission (BVI FSC), BVI House will help strengthen ties with regional government authorities. In the next few months, the Commission will also provide resources for the House, including staff, which currently includes of the interim director and a chief operating officer Heather Tang.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Deloitte Announced Merger of BVI, USVI and Bermuda Offices

In the end of August, international accounting and financial consulting firm Deloitte announced the merger of its BVI, USVI, and Bermuda practices. It is said to bring enhanced services to clients and greater access to Deloitte professionals who provide insights and solutions to complex business challenges.

The company also informed that the practices will continue to operate as Deloitte & Touche Services Ltd, from the current offices in the British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands, providing tax, consulting, financial advisory and audit services. The company does not plan to close offices, and each of them will have local leadership. 

The merger combination, effective from August 26, coincides with the retirement of BVI/USVI office managing partner Mark Chapman, who will continue as a consultant to the company through the end of October. Mark Chapman joined Deloitte BVI in 1995, and focused on offshore enterprises in the financial services sector. Now the British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands offices will be operated by Carlene Romney, who is specialist in financial services audits, and Richard White, an experienced professional with over 13 years of working in practice and industry as a chartered accountant.

Speaking about the merger of practices, Carlene Romney stated that Deloitte’s clients, communities and professionals will benefit from it, as the company will be able “to deliver additional services, especially in areas such as tax, restructuring, and risk management.”

Monday, August 26, 2013

BVI Government Discusses Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act

The British Virgin Islands jurisdiction has started to discuss the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) with the US Department of the Treasury. According to BVI Premier Orlando Smith, who told this to reporters on August 20, 2013, the territory is talking about the “intergovernmental agreement” with the US to comply with FATCA.

The Premier expressed the opinion that this course of action is the best for the BVI, and noted that its financial services industry complies with it.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act provides that the Inland Revenue Service obtains information on accounts of US taxpayers, held abroad at foreign financial institutions. If foreign financial institutions fail to disclose information on their US clients, account ownership, and changes on the account balance, it will result in the requirement to withhold 30 percent tax on US source income.

In August, the Cayman Islands has concluded negotiations with the United States on agreements for automatic information exchange under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, and Bermuda and the Bahamas have also expressed their intention to comply with FATCA.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Global Forum Released Reports on Information Exchange in BVI and Other 12 Jurisdictions

According to the Tax-news, Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes issued peer review reports assessing tax systems of thirteen countries, including BVI, for information exchange. These reviews are to become part of the ratings of 50 jurisdictions, in compliance with G20 and Global Forum efforts to strengthen tax cooperation.

All the reports assess the commitment of the jurisdictions to the international requirements for tax information exchange. Of these 13 reports, 11 are “Phase 2” reports covering the exchange of information in Austria, Bermuda, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, India, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Qatar, San Marino and The Bahamas. Two are “Phase 1” reports, concerning Israel and Lithuania, looking at the legal and regulatory framework for transparency and exchange of information. 

The Chair of the Global Forum Kosie Louw, of the South African Revenue Service, welcomed the reports noting: "The Global Forum is applying pressure on all jurisdictions to implement the standard and co-operate effectively in tax information exchange. The publication of the ratings later this year will be a crucial moment for all those committed to fighting cross-border tax evasion."

Friday, August 09, 2013

BVI Among Major Foreign Investors in Nepal in 2012/2013

According to the Department of Industry of Nepal, the amount of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the economy of the country increased by 163% in year 2012/2013, as compared to the previous fiscal year. In 2012/2013, 275 joint venture companies were registered in the country. They have committed to make investment of Rs 18.84 billion, while in 2011/2012 FDI commitment was Rs 7.14 billion.

British Virgin Islands is at the top of the list of countries investing in Nepal, in terms of commitment amount, with investment commitment of Rs 4.49 billion. The BVI is followed by Hong Kong with investment commitment of Rs 3.07 billion, and India with as much as Rs 2.45 billion. In terms of number of companies, China is on the leading position with 87 joint ventures, followed by India. Most of FDI from China and Hong Kong are in the sector of hydropower projects and infrastructure development.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

BVI Dominates by Volume of New Offshore Company Incorporations

According to a report from Appleby Global, one of the world’s largest providers of offshore legal, fiduciary and administration services. the British Virgin Islands jurisdiction “continues to dominate” by the volume of new offshore company registrations, with a six-fold lead over the Cayman Islands, which is the nearest comparator of the BVI.

The Group’s latest On the Register Report is devoted to the analysis of company incorporations in the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Crown Dependencies, Mauritius and Seychelles, and how activity in these offshore jurisdictions compares to financial centres such as the UK and Hong Kong

Appleby stated in the release that the number of new offshore company registrations decreased both in the BVI and the Cayman Islands in the second half of 2012, with a 12% drop to 29,225 new company registrations in the British Virgin Islands, and 13% drop to 4,176 new registrations in the Cayman Islands. Appleby reported an overall decrease of 3.6% in company incorporation activity in the major offshore markets in the second half of 2012, indicating the impact of uncertain global economic conditions on the majority of the offshore markets.

By words of Farah Ballands, the partner and global head of fiduciary & administration services at Appleby, “There are signs that 2013 will be a watershed year in terms of seeing a universal return to pre-2009 activity levels across the offshore jurisdictions.”

Monday, July 15, 2013

MOU with ESMA Signed by 25 European Securities Regulators

According to the press release issued by the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission, twenty-five European securities regulators signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) concerning consultation, cooperation and the exchange of information related to the supervision of Alternative Investment Fund Managers with the BVI FSC.

The MOU signed in May 2013 was negotiated and approved by European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), and provided for the supervision of alternative investment funds, including hedge funds, private equity funds and real estate funds. The signings ensure that the BVI Mutual Fund Industry will be able to market its products within the European Union.

It was stated in the press release that the Commission had been negotiating with ESMA since April 2012, and through its participation in the process, is confident that the MOU represents a balanced approach, and is pleased to have executed the agreements which demonstrate the recognition and importance of BVI funds in the global industry.

Friday, July 05, 2013

BVI FSC Published Quarterly Statistics for Period Ended March 2013

The British Financial Services Commission has published the regular volume of its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, providing statistics and analysis of financial services industry activities in the jurisdiction in the first quarter of the year, ended March 31, 2013. According to the information of the Registry of Corporate Affairs, 16,666 new companies were incorporated in this period, as compared to 14,783 in the fourth quarter of 2012, and 17,865 in the first quarter of 2012. Cumulative number of active companies incorporated in the BVI at the end of Q1 2013 was 482,747. Also, there were 565 Limited Partnerships and 1,061 Private Trust Companies registered in BVI by the end of the reported period.

Banking and Fiduciary Services sector shows the following figures for commercial banks in the first quarter of 2013 (in US$ thousands): total assets made $2,436,445, deposits made $1,809,321, total shareholders’ equity was $416,240, operating income was $24,982, and net income was $13,673. 

In Investment business, 10 new Investment Business Licences were granted in the first quarter of the year (6 in Q4 2012, and 16 in Q1 2012), and 39 Mutual Funds were licensed (27 in Q4 2012 and 32 in Q1 2012). Cumulative number of Investment Business Licences as of 31 March 2013 was 530, and cumulative number of Mutual Funds was 2303.

According to Insolvency Services statistics, total number of Insolvency Practitioners in Q1 2013 was 23, the same as in the fourth and the first quarters of 2012. In the Insurance business sector, two insurance licences (1 captive and 1 domestic) were granted in the reported period, making the cumulative number of licences in this industry to achieve 229. 

As concerns Legal and Enforcement and International Cooperation statistics, there were totally 32 Enforcement Actions during the first three months of the year, including Advisory Warnings, Directives, Administrative Penalties, etc. Other information, including statistics on Ongoing Supervision and Onsite Inspections, can be found on the website of BVI FSC.

Monday, June 24, 2013

BVI Premier Confirms Support of G8 Tax Decisions

Last week, Premier and Minister of Finance of the British Virgin Islands Orlando Smith returned from London and gave his comments on G8 Tax Statement, confirming his support of the UK government’s global agenda on tax, transparency and trade, and his agreement to take an active part in the new initiative of multilateral automatic tax information exchange agreed upon by the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. The BVI Premier also confirmed the plans to prepare national actions to meet the FATF standards on beneficial ownership, and to join the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance on Tax Matters.

Orlando Smith noted in his comments: “In the debate about tax and transparency the fact that the BVI already has stronger financial regulation for trust and corporate service providers, as well as rules regarding beneficial ownership than many countries in the G8 itself, has not been adequately appreciated… For many years we have implemented the highest international standards on transparency, accountability and information exchange on tax matters, as set out by the OECD. The BVI will continue to be a constructive partner in evolving and setting the highest standards of regulation.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

BVI Premier Takes Part in Pre-G8 Meetings with UK Prime Minister

Premier and Minister of Finance of the British Virgin Islands, Orlando Smith, has accepted the invitation to attend two meetings in London on June 15.

These meetings are hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron before the G8 meeting. During the first meeting, the BVI Premier is having an open consultation with the UK Prime Minister, together with leaders from all UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, while the second meeting is the discussion on the key issues of the G8 summit, including tax, trade and transparency, and involves a range of stakeholders, including representatives from Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

The BVI Premier said in a letter sent to David Cameron that the jurisdiction will in principle commit to joining the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance on Tax Matters - a multilateral agreement having the aim to promote international cooperation to combat tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.

Speaking about the meeting, the BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith welcomed the invitation from David Cameron for consultation, and expressed Government’s support for the G8 agenda on tax, trade and transparency and trust that the G8 members will see the value of, and accept the need for, establishing global standards."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

BVI Hosted Meeting of Task Force on Trade and Investment

On May 30-31, 2013, the seventh meeting of the EU Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) Task Force on Trade and Investment was organized in the British Virgin Islands with participation of Caribbean Export Development Agency as chair of the CARIFORUM, and French Caribbean Outermost Region (FCOR). During these two days, the members of the task force were examining key developments that have taken place in 2010-2012 and have related to the CARIFORUM-EU relationship, including an update on the CARIFORUM-EU partnership strategy, deliberations in the CARIFORUM-EU EPA institutions and an update on EDF programming.

The EU Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) Task Force on Trade and Investment is promoting dialogue on issues related to trade and investment, and assisting with the projects between CARIFORUM states and the French Caribbean region, which is part to the European Partnership Agreement through its political status with the French Republic.

At the opening of the Trade and Investment task force meeting, BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith said: “Although BVI has only observer status in the organisation we are proud to be part of a forward moving process and congratulate the region for being able to move forward with the European Partnership Agreements (EPA) with the European Union (EU).”

Thursday, June 06, 2013

BVI FSC Signs Agreement with the European Securities and Markets Authority

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has approved the co-operation agreement between the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission and EU securities regulators. The Memorandum of Understanding allows the BVI Mutual Fund Industry to market its products in the European Union and to EU investors. It provides for the supervision of alternative investment funds, including hedge funds, private equity funds and real estate funds.
Before signing the MOU with the ESMA, the Financial Services Commission had discussions with it concerning the European Union’s Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFMs) Directive, the draft version of which was issued by the European Commission in 2009, and which is focused on creating a comprehensive regulatory and supervisory framework as well as common regulatory standards for all European AIFMs.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the BVI FSC and ESMA is to a large extent based on the IOSCO Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding. The Commission has been in negotiations with ESMA since April last year.
It is said in the press release published by the Commission that “the MOU between the FSC and EU securities regulators is further evidence that the FSC remains committed to fulfilling its international obligations relating to information exchange and combating illicit activity that may involve the use of regulated financial services structures. In addition, it demonstrates the recognition and importance of BVI funds in the global funds industry.”
Managing Director/CEO of the FSC Robert Mathavious said in his comments that “the Commission looks forward to working with ESMA and the EU countries ensuring that the BVI continues its commitment to meeting its international obligations and standards.”


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

BVI Signed TIEA with Canada

Last week, the British Virgin Islands government has signed TIEA with Canada. This tax information exchange agreement became the 24th for the BVI territory, allowing for the exchange of information by request on criminal and other tax matters in accordance with the procedures.

The TIEA was signed by the BVI Premier and Minister of finance, Dr Orlando Smith, and by the High Commissioner for Canada, Gordon Campbell from the Canadian side.

The Premier Dr Orlando Smith welcomed the agreement, and also, during his speech at the signing ceremony, which coincided with the Caribbean Council Reception, stated that the British Virgin Islands is unequivocally against tax evasion, fraud, money laundering and any forms of illegal activity, and supports UK strategy and UK Prime Minister’s agenda for the G8 summit. The Premier took the opportunity to reinforce the association the BVI has with the UK and welcome the spirit of cooperation between the countries.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Premier Smith Hosting Chairman of OCTA Organisation

The chairman of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association and president of the Territorial Council of St Pierre and Miquelon St├ęphane Artano visited the territory of the British Virgin Islands, as part of the regional familiarisation mission to the Caribbean countries as the OCTA chairman. This visit to the BVI will help to enhance its relationship with the overseas countries and territories of the European Union (OCT-EU).

Premier of the British Virgin Islands Dr Orlando Smith, who hosted OCTA chairman, will assume the chairmanship of OCTA in December 2013. During his visit to the BVI, Artano had the purpose to personally familiarise himself with the BVI, as well as to inform Smith of his green growth agenda for the OCTs. Also, the director of the International Affairs Secretariat, Sylvia Moses, informed that “the OCTA chairman would like to discuss Premier Smith’s views on the revision of the Overseas Association Decision (OAD) and its programming regulations; the OCT regional funding envelope; and regional programming under the 11th European Development Fund.” 

According to Sylvia Moses, the talks between the premier of the BVI and OCTA chairman were to focus on innovation in economic and environmental policies for all overseas territories. Moses said that Artano will address common issues and interests among OCTs, including tourism, fisheries and the internet communications.

The British Virgin Islands is vice president of OCTA organisation, as well as the co-chair of the OCTA/EU Financial Services Partnership Working Party that brings together technical experts from the EU and OCTs to discuss financial services related matters.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

BVI and Other Financial Centres Sign Up for UK Strategy to Enhance Tax Transparency

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne welcomed the news that British Overseas Territories with significant financial industry sector, among them the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Bermuda, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands, signed up for the UK government’s strategy on global tax transparency. This strategy will allow these financial centres to automatically share information bilaterally with the UK, and multilaterally with the G5 countries - the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. 

Under the agreement, much greater levels of information about bank accounts, including those held by trusts, will be exchanged, marking a turning point in the fight against tax evasion and illicit finance. The parties involved in the agreement will know the names, addresses, dates of birth, account numbers, account balances and details of payments made into those accounts. This will increase the level of international transparency and will make it much harder for people to escape paying taxes.

This year, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron identified tax transparency as a key priority for the summit of the G8. The jurisdictions, including BVI, have also committed to take action to ensure they are at the forefront of transparency on BVI company ownership. Osborne has invited other countries to join the initiative.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

BVI and Macau Sign TIEAs with Japan

The Ministry of Finance of Japan had agreed on the new Tax Information Exchange Agreements with the British Virgin Islands and Macau, which will provide for the effective exchange of information in compliance with international standards, and for strengthening relations between the countries.

Under the Tax Information Exchange Agreements, the British Virgin Islands and Macau, and Japan from the other side, will share relevant information on request, when there is evidence of any kind of fiscal crime. 

The Japanese Ministry of Finance said that the government is determined to strengthen its tax information exchange network, to contribute to efforts to tackle international tax evasion and abuse.

The Japanese government intends to conclude the agreements with the BVI and Macau as soon as possible. They will be formally signed after the texts are finalized, and they will enter into force, once the countries have completed their domestic ratification procedures.

Friday, April 19, 2013

BVI FSC Issued 29th Volume of Quarterly Statistical Bulletin

Twenty-ninth volume of Quarterly Statistical Bulletin was issued by the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission, providing statistics and information on the financial services activities in the territory in the fourth quarter of 2012. According to the statistics of the Registry of Corporate Affairs, 14,783 new companies were incorporated in BVI during this period, as compared to 16,251 companies in the third quarter of 2012, and 12,974 in the fourth quarter of 2011. Cumulative number of companies newly registered in the BVI was 459,005 as at 31 December 2012. In the fourth quarter of 2012, 36 Limited Partnerships and 21 Private Trust Companies were registered.

According to Banking and Fiduciary services statistics, total assets of BVI-registered commercial banks in the fourth quarter of 2012 were $2,472,3mln; deposits were $1,827mln; total shareholders’ equity $400,7mln; net interest income was $44,3mln.

In Investment Business sector, 6 new Investment Business Licences were granted in the reported period. In Mutual Funds sector, 27 new licences were issued, of which 19 are professional and 8 are private licences. The Bulletin includes year-by-year statistics, from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2012, showing the dynamics of how cumulative number of Active Mutual Funds was changing in this period. From Q4 2009 to Q4 2012, the number of Active Public Funds decreased from 216 to 151; the number of private funds decreased from 816 to 577; and the number of professional funds fell from 1,905 to 1,590.
There were 23 Insolvency Practitioners in the British Virgin Islands by the end of the fourth quarter of 2012.

Also, in the fourth quarter of 2012 there were 55 Enforcement Matters in the sector of Legal and Enforcement and International Co-operation. Ongoing Supervision Matters Referred to LSC included 103 matters in Banking and Fiduciary Services, 259 in Investment Business, 139 in Insurance and 10 in Insolvency Services.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Government Investigates Global Leak of Information on BVI Companies

The BVI government is investigating the ways how the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) received information on BVI companies, which is private. According to BVI Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Orlando Smith, this is an “illicit” leak of information used to attack the BVI financial services industry, which is actually fully compliant with the law and international guidelines.

The names of many BVI offshore company owners have been published by ICIJ, in collaboration with the Guardian newspaper and other international sources. This became the result of the leak of internal files of offshore incorporation agencies in the British Virgin Islands and some other tax havens – one of the biggest information leaks in history, which revealed many individuals and the details of their financial dealings through offshore accounts

This leak has already caused global reaction from governments and politicians. For example, Britain’s prime minister David Cameron is under pressure to act against the secretive offshore industry at June's G8 summit, as leaked evidence continued to show that politicians and tycoons from all over the world have used the BVI to hide their funds. Also, this week the European Commission announced an action plan to combat tax fraud and evasion, which was approved by Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Orlando Smith said in his statement: "While the overwhelming majority of persons use international financial centres for legitimate purposes, there are those that will abuse the system. Where wrongdoing is discovered, appropriate enforcement action is and will be taken. We continually review our legislative regime to ensure transparency, co-operation and compliance with international standards."

Monday, March 25, 2013

BVI Delegation Visited Business Conferences in Dubai

In March, the British Virgin Islands delegation visited the two conferences in Dubai, with the purpose to discuss potential co-operation in the sphere of financial services, and attract funds and business to the BVI.

The Hedge Funds World Conference at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai and the Society of Trust and Estate Practioners' "Opportunities for the Flow of New Wealth Conference" were organized to discuss business and investment possibilities in Dubai, particularly from tax-free Dubai International Financial Center.

Elise Donovan, the Executive Director of the BVI International Finance Center, commented on the events: “We were given a very warm welcome on our return to the United Arab Emirates and it is clear that many investors from across the region recognize the advantages of using BVI structures and services for conducting international business.”

She also said that the British Virgin Islands is an “attractive option to investors from the Gulf States looking to acquire BVI company structures for a multiplicity of investing and other cross-border transactions. BVI’s structures are easy to use, flexible, widely accepted and cost-competitive compared to other products being offered in the region."

Friday, March 15, 2013

British Virgin Islands Joined GLISPA Organization

The British Virgin Islands has officially joined the Global Islands Partnership (GLISPA), with the aim to strengthen the government’s efforts to preserve the natural environment and accelerate the sustainable development of the BVI Territory.

At the GLISPA 2013 steering committee meeting, which took place in February in Washington, DC, and brought together officials from many agencies of the United Nations, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments, GLISPA’s strategic plan for 2013 was discussed, which includes strengthening the link between sustainable development and conservation under the theme Blue/Green Growth; and preparing for the United Nations Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in 2014.

Deputy premier and minister for natural resources and labour of the British Virgin Islands, Dr Kedrick Pickering, made the announcement during the meeting, speaking on the benefits of GLISPA as a “United Nations recognised partnership and a platform for islands to cooperate on conserving their biodiversity and to promote sustainable development.”

Pickering held individual meetings with representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), as well as with Hawaii and Seychelles officials.
Also, at a briefing organized by GLISPA, Pickering made a presentation on the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI).

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Commonwealth Workshop Organized for OECS Countries

A workshop for the OECS countries takes place on 4-8 March 2013 in St Lucia, hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. The activity targets Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the OECS Secretariat, and aims to enhance the capacity of the jurisdictions to develop, implement and monitor effective national and regional trade policies and boost participation in regional and international trade negotiations.

The representatives of the countries participating in the training include senior officials responsible for trade policy, statistics and trade negotiations. It is funded by the Commonwealth Secretariat, which is a key development partner of the region.  

Veniana Qalo, economic advisor at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said that during the workshop a Commonwealth guide for small states negotiators is to be presented, highlighting successful approaches that can be used to help these capacity constrained economies to leverage successful outcomes, despite their size.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

BVI Named a Major Financial Centre by The Economist

In a special report by The Economist, a well known weekly news magazine publishing reports on politics, economics, business and finance, BVI has been recognized as a major financial centre playing a strong role in the global economy. It is stated in the report that offshore financial centres have recently been under attack but have been resilient to it, and the future of respected international finance centres like the British Virgin Islands and their staying in business is guaranteed.

The report, named “Storm survivors”, also acknowledges the importance of Asia to the BVI jurisdiction, as the BVI companies are used for initial public offerings and international investments. Among the reasons why investors are using the BVI for international arbitrage, there are highlighted the ease of raising funds, cheaper access to capital markets, speed of setting up a company (or investment vehicle) and access to reliable courts

The executive director of the BVI International Finance Centre Elise Donovan commented on the report, saying that “The Economist has highlighted some positive attributes about the BVI. It has shown us in a true light as a stable, well regulated and neutral jurisdiction which makes a significant contribution to the liquidity of the global economy.”

She also said some words on the role of Asian market for the BVI: “Asia is of the utmost importance to us. In less than 10 years, China will be the largest economy in the world. We have built a strong relationship with China and we must continue to build on those foundations and ensure the BVI remains an attractive proposition for Asian businesses.”

Monday, February 18, 2013

Financial Services Day Held by BVI International Finance Centre

Last week, the BVI International Finance Centre hosted Financial Services Day, as part of the BVI Senior Students Career Expo which took place on February 11-14 at the Multipurpose Sports Complex. Financial Services Day has the aim to educate secondary school students on the importance of the BVI financial services industry and its many career opportunities.

The Exhibitors of the Financial Services Day included key industry players – the Financial Services Commission, BVI Bank Association, BVI Association of Professional Accountants, BVI Bar Association, Virgin Islands Shipping Registry, Financial Investigation Agency, BVI Airports Authority, Restructuring and Insolvency Specialists Association, Association of Registered Agents, the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, and insurance companies.

IFC Executive Director Ms. Elise Donovan in her introductory remarks spoke about the contribution of the financial industry to the economy of the Territory, stating that “more than 60 percent of the revenues that goes into the Government’s Treasury come from financial services.” She encouraged students to consider careers in the financial services sector, which is so important to the British Virgin Islands.

The BVI IFC hosted the BVI Senior Students Career Expo beginning from 2007, in previous years this was held only for students of the Elmore Stoutt High School (ESHS).

Monday, February 11, 2013

BVI Premier Speaks on the Development of Financial Services Industry

The Premier and Minister for Finance of the British Virgin Islands Orlando Smith had discussed the future of the BVI as a financial centre with business leaders. He said that the BVI government has the aim to strengthen the position of the territory as a leading offshore financial centre that adheres to international standards, and to set the BVI apart from its competitors by developing innovative new offerings.

The Premier and Minister for Finance noted that the BVI, which once had unique position in the world of financial services, now has a community of competitors in this niche, as well as in tourism sector. He said that the territory must “rise to the challenges of keeping the twin pillars of economy not only sturdy but resilient.” By words of the Premier, the BVI should review its business models, and to improve or increase the products offered, because what once was an “extraordinary idea,” has now become “the new normal.”

Orlando Smith pointed to changing international standards on tax transparency and information exchange. He stressed that the BVI government must increase its efforts to inform the international community on all the steps taken by the jurisdiction to adopt leading international standards and improve co-operation with tax authorities of other countries. Also, he said that particularly close attention should be focused on the “correctly themed marketing of our tourism and financial services products, and currently efforts are fully underway to rebrand the BVI product."

To boost the ties of the BVI territory with emerging markets, particularly Asian, the BVI government plans to establish a representative office in Hong Kong.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

BVI Government Signed Contract with LGS and Associates

The Government of the British Virgin Islands signed a contract worth US$100,000 with a financial industry consultancy firm LGS and Associates, which is headed by the financial industry expert Mrs. Lorna Smith

The information about the signing of the contract in December 2012 was confirmed by the Financial Secretary Mr. Neil Smith and by Mrs. Smith herself, who stated that the contract is not a new assignment since she has been providing services to the BVI governments, including under the Virgin Islands Party administration. 

Mrs. Smith recently attended the OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information. She also took part in the negotiations concerning tax treaties between OECD countries and OECS countries, all of which have been put on the OECD ‘white list’. She also takes the post of Chairperson of the Financial Services Business Development Committee, whose task is to maintain the image of the British Virgin Islands as a top international finance centre, identifying new and emerging markets and recommending legislation for introduction and support of new and existing products and services.

Mrs. Smith assisted in the BVI passing phase I review process on global transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes, and, in her own words, continues to work to ensure that the BVI moves phase II of the review process.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ms. Dawn Smith Confirmed as New Director, Legal and Enforcement

The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission published press release where confirmed the appointment of the new General Counsel/Director, Legal and Enforcement. Ms. Dawn Smith replaced Ms. Jacqueline Wilson in this post with effect from 2 January, 2013.

As General Counsel/Director, Legal and Enforcement, Ms. Smith will be responsible for providing legal service to the Commission in relation to the Financial Services Commission Act, 2001 and other financial services legislation. Also, she will be an advisor on enforcement actions and court proceedings in which the FSC is involved, co-ordinate and execute requests for assistance received from foreign regulatory authorities. Ms. Smith will also serve as the FSC’s representative on many regional financial services committees and working groups

Before her tenure the the BVI FSC, Ms. Smith was engaged as an associate lawyer at Conyers, Dill and Pearman; she also served as Director of the BVI’s London Office, and as an associate lawyer at the former O’Neal Webster O’Neal Myers Fletcher and Gordon. Ms. Smith is a member of the BVI Bar Association, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and is a founding member and currently serves as Chairperson of the BVI Chapter of the Caribbean Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New Volume of Statistical Bulletin Issued by BVI FSC

This week, the Commission published the twenty-eighth volume of its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, comprising statistics and analysis of BVI financial services industry for the third quarter of 2012. In the three month period, ended September 2012, 16,251 new companies and 20 limited partnerships were incorporated on the territory – more than in the second quarter of the year. As compared to the previous years, the number of company incorporations in the third quarter of 2012 was less than in the same quarter of 2011 (17,056), but more than in the years 2010 and 2009 (15,946 and 13,368, respectively). According to the Registry of Corporate Affairs, cumulative number of active business companies achieved 473,707 as at 30 September 2012, and cumulative number of limited partnerships achieved 496.

By the Banking and Fiduciary Services statistics, banking sector of the British Virgin Islands showed the following figures in the third quarter of 2012 (in thousands of US$): Cash items in the amount of $689,815, loans and advances in the amount of $1,600,974, total assets - $2,438,154, total shareholders’ equity - $449,670, net income - $31,235.

In the Investment Business, 3 new Investment Business licenses and 29 Mutual Funds licenses were granted in the reported period. Cumulative number of active mutual funds in Q3 2012 was 157 public funds (181 in Q3 2011), 591 private funds (718 in Q3 2011), and 1,610 professional funds (1,728 in Q3 2011).

In the sector of Legal and Enforcement and International Cooperation, 51 enforcement matters were registered in the reported period, and 31 formal requests for international cooperation, requiring the disclosure of non-public information. There were 14 enforcement actions, 12 of them – before the Enforcement Committee. Among the matters referred to the Licensing and Supervisory Committee in the third quarter of 2012, 79 related to Banking and Fiduciary Services, 332 related to Investment Business, 46 – to Insurance, and 7 – to Insolvency Services.

Friday, January 11, 2013

New Director of Tourism Appointed in BVI

Premier and Minister of Tourism of the British Virgin Islands Dr Orlando Smith announced the appointment of Sharon Flax-Mars as director of tourism for the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board. Flax-Mars has more than 25 years of experience in tourism and hospitality, during which she held a number of senior posts in the industry. She was also a member of the BVI Tourist Board across three administrations.

The Premier said in his comments on the appointment: “I am aware that it takes dedication, diligence, persistence, vision, effective planning, and the right hands on deck. In this regard, today I am pleased to announce that the BVI Tourist Board has retained the services of Mrs Sharon Flax-Mars who will serve as the director of tourism.” The new director of tourism also shared her first plans on the future of tourism in the British Virgin Islands, especially noting the aim to increase the number of visitors and show them the “unparalleled beauty and charm unlike any other islands in the Caribbean.”

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Harneys Issued Second Edition of “British Virgin Islands Commercial Law”

In the last weeks of 2012, the international offshore law firm Harney Westwood & Riegels announced the publication of the 2nd edition of practitioner’s textbook ‘British Virgin Islands Commercial Law’. Since it was first published in February 2012, it remained the first and only textbook focusing solely on British Virgin Islands law and practice, comprising Harney’s expertise as the oldest and largest law firm in this offshore jurisdiction.

The publication is an authoritative source of information and advice for lawyers and other professionals who work with corporate structures and transactions, providing a deep analytical view of BVI legal background, related to business companies, partnerships, credit and security, investment funds, insolvency, dispute resolution, taxation and trust legislation

There are some changes in the law of the British Virgin Islands that occurred since the 1st textbook was edited, including the passing of the BVI Business Companies (Amendment) Act 2012 was passed and the accompanying BVI Business Companies Regulations 2012.