Monday, February 17, 2014

New Cybercrime Legislation Act Introduced in BVI

Last week, a bill was introduced in the British Virgin Islands House of Assembly named The Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act. This legislation document provides for fines of up to US$1 million or prison sentences of up to 20 years for individuals that illegally leak confidential information, and sentences of up to 15 years and/or fines of US$500,000 for anyone publishing such data, and applies to any person of any nationality. Actually, the law followed the global leak of information in the last year, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), and revealing private information on BVI companies contained in the secret files.

According to the survey of the industry, conducted by Offshore Incorporations Limited, the ICIJ’s reports had caused a “crisis of confidence” in the offshore industry and decline in offshore company incorporations, and particularly in the British Virgin Islands jurisdiction. Most offshore professionals stated that the disclosures have reduced demand for offshore financial vehicles or, in other cases, prompted clients to move their business from one financial centre to another. 

Press freedom manager of the International Press Institute (IPI) Barbara Trionfi said that "It is vital that the House of Assembly amend the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Bill to include a clear exception for information in the public interest, as journalists must be free to report on issues that affect democratic accountability." She added: "We are also concerned that the disproportionately harsh punishments foreseen by this bill, as well as a lack of specificity as to which information is protected, will contribute to a dangerous chilling effect on the media."

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