Sunday, October 23, 2016

First Days of BVI Asian Trade Mission in Hong Kong and China

BVI Premier and minister of finance Dr Orlando Smith said in his speech during the BVI Asian Trade Mission in Hong Kong that the Asia Pacific Region is a fundamental market for the British Virgin Islands. In the first days of the two week event which will make stops in HK and four cities of China, Premier headed the delegation in a number of meetings, which started with discussions with executives of Top Search International Holdings, a multi-disciplinary services group working in the spheres of insurance, asset management and banking. They discussed developments in the global and BVI financial services industry.

Among other visits, the BVI delegation had a meeting with executives of the Bank of Asia BVI Limited, to get an update information on the launch of the bank which is anticipated both by HK and BVI practitioners. 

On the first day the BVI Premier hosted a luncheon with financial services practitioners in Hong Kong, representing various sectors of economy. During the meeting Smith was speaking about the strong partnership between BVI, HK and China, about BVI advantages ad developments in the BVI financial services sector, including beneficial ownership.

On the second day of the BVI Asian Trade Mission, BVI delegation led by the Premier met with senior members of the marketing and international departments of the China National Tourism Administration; also, BVI Finance hosted the first of a series of roadshows, themed “Strategies for Global Success - BVI: The International Partner of Choice.”

Monday, October 10, 2016

BVI FSC Published Financial Services Statistics for Q2 2016

The BVI Financial Services Commission has issued the forty-third volume of its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, providing for information and analysis of financial services activities in the territory for the second quarter of 2016. In the reported period, there were 6,767 new company incorporations in the jurisdiction, as compared to 9,456 in the first quarter of 2016, and 11,059 in the second quarter of the previous year. Cumulative number of companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands as at 30 June 2016 was 430,310. Also, in the second quarter of this year 23 Private Trust Partnerships and 25 Limited Partnerships were registered in the jurisdiction.

According to Investment Business Statistics, there was 1 Investment Business License granted in Q2 2016, making cumulative number of these licenses as much as 463; 12 Approved Investment Managers licenses, 8 Professional Mutual Funds Licenses, 2 Private Licenses, 4 Incubator Licenses and 12 approved licenses were granted in this period. 

The number of Full License Insolvency Practitioners in the second quarter of the year was 24; there were 42 Formal Requests for Legal and Enforcement and International Co-operation, as well as 8 Informal Requests, 30 Enforcement Matters, and 22 Enforcement Investigations in the reported quarter.

73 Banking and Fiduciary Services, 53 Investment Business, and 22 Insurance matters were referred to the Licensing and Supervisory Committee in the second quarter of 2016. There were 4 Trust Companies inspections and 2 Insurance inspections onsite in this period. Other relevant information can be seen in the homepage of BVI FSC.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

BVI Governor Speaks on BVI Government Legislative Agenda

BVI Governor John Duncan has delivered his speech at the first sitting of the second session of the third House of Assembly of the BVI themed "Securing Our Future" where he outlined specific focus areas for the BVI government. These included improving social services, strengthening educational sector, border protection, enhancing law, order and public safety, stimulating the economy, infrastructural development, and public sector reforms.

The Governor's speech from the throne, covering legislative agenda of the BVI government, is traditional in Commonwealth countries and British Overseas territories. It is used by the government to set its legislative programme for the upcoming year, and is prepared by the government on behalf of the Queen. 

John Duncan became the 16th governor of the British Virgin Islands on August 15, 2014, and his first speech from the throne address was delivered on November 10, 2014.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New Public-Private Organization Launched in BVI Financial Services

The new entity is to be launched in the beginning of 2017, which will take over from the existing BVI Finance the functions of supporting financial services promotion and business development in the British Virgin Islands. BVI Finance Limited is a new public/private initiative and part of government programme that has the purpose to strengthen the financial services industry.

BVI Finance Limited will have a fundamentally new corporate structure, and will be more flexible and autonomous as the marketing and promotional tool of the financial services industry. It will be responsible for promoting financial services as an industry to customers, intermediaries and regulators abroad, and for developing new business opportunities. The objectives of the new organization include co-ordinating efforts of all main private sector stakeholders within financial services.

Monday, September 12, 2016

BVI and USVI Common Issues Discussed at IVIC Meeting

The delegations of government officials of the British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands discussed the areas of mutual interest during the seventh meeting of the Inter Virgin Islands Council (IVIC) which was held in St Thomas on September 2. The BVI delegation was led by BVI Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr Orlando Smith, and the USVI delegation was led by the jurisdiction's governor, Kenneth E. Mapp.

During the meeting the committees presented reports on law enforcement, tourism, energy and utilities, education, and other areas. It was decided to hold regular annual meetings, strengthen their capacity building efforts, improve information exchange, and reach more co-operation on public information outreach efforts. Speaking about the results of the meeting, USVI governor stated that the territories should continue to work together on their mutual interests, and find resolutions. 

The Inter-Virgin Islands Council was established on 29 May, 2004, with signing a joint memorandum of understanding. The first meeting of the Council was held in April 2005. The next IVIC meeting will take place on October 6, 2017, in the British Virgin Islands.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Leaders of Overseas Territories Meet to Discuss UK Changes

Leaders from seven of the UK Overseas Territories have met in Turks and Caicos Islands, to prepare for the annual meeting of with the FCO's minister for the overseas territories which will be held in London in October 2016.

During the meeting there were informal talks with the territory leaders about the significant changes which took place in the UK recently, the biggest of which being the vote in the referendum in favour of leaving the European Union, followed by the appointment of a new prime minister, Theresa May, which, in her turn, made some major minister changes

On the first day of the meeting, a letter was delivered to TCI Premier Dr Rufus Ewing from the new minister for the overseas territories at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Baroness Anelay who is the minister of state for relations with a number of international organizations and additionally works with the overseas territories. She emphasized the commitment of the UK government to the overseas territories, as well as their involvement in the preparations for negotiations for the UK to leave the European Union.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

BVI Premier Expressed Concerns about International Banks

Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Orlando Smith said that the real issue for the BVI, as well as for the whole Caribbean and Latin American region, is the threat of international banks limiting or terminating their relationships with regional financial institutions. According to the premier, this matter is being discussed at the 'highest level of the Caribbean region', and representation has been made through all the banks - the banks' headquarters, correspondence banks, agencies, the United Kingdom and America.

The international banks' withdrawal due to unspecified concerns about money laundering is among the major issues being discussed at CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in Georgetown, Guyana. The organization has already stated that the problem presents ‘a number of threats to the region’s financial and economic stability’. 

Correspondent banking is crucially important to small developing economies; correspondent banks, which act as domestic banks' overseas agents, actually facilitate trade investments and remittances.

Friday, July 15, 2016

UK Tax Policy to Become Closer to its Overseas Territories

European finance ministers and experts expressed concern that Brexit could cause the UK to become another tax haven, the same as its Caribbean territories. By words of George Osborne, the country would cut its corporate tax rates to one of the lowest of any major economy, from 20 percent to less than 15 percent by 2020, trying to avoid the recession after Brexit and attract international investment.

Even before the referendum, UK was in the process of lowering corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 17 percent, to become more attractive destination for multinational corporations; after exit from the EU, the country will double its attempts to maintain London's status as premier financial centre. 

The British overseas territories including the British Virgin Islands are often used to shield the assets and identities of their clients. However, the UK and its Caribbean territories adopted the OECD new Common Reporting Standard, which makes disclosure of tax residency information compulsory starting from 2016. This was connected very much with anti-tax avoidance initiatives caused by Panama Papers leak as an important source of information and moving force for these changes.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

BVI FSC Published Statistical Bulletin for Q1 2016

The BVI Financial Services Commission has published the forty-second volume of its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin, providing figures and information on financial services industry in the jurisdiction in Q1 2016. According to the statistics published by the Registry of Corporate Affairs, in the announced period there were 9,456 new companies incorporated, along with 27 Private Trust Companies and 20 Limited Partnerships. The number of company incorporations is higher than in the previous quarter (Q4 2015) but lower than in the first quarter of 2015. Cumulative number of companies incorporated as at 31 March 2016 was 466,081. At that moment, there were also 1,112 Private Trust Companies and 780 Limited Partnerships registered in the BVI.

In Investment Business, 5 new Investment Business Licences were granted in the first quarter of 2016, and cumulative number of Investment Business Licences achieved 467 as at 31 March 2016. Also, 8 Professional Mutual Fund and 4 Private Mutual Fund Licences were granted in the reported period. In the first quarter of 2016, there were 23 fully licences Insolvency Practitioners in the jurisdiction.

According to Legal and Enforcement and International Cooperation statistics, there were 52 formal and 5 informal requests in the first quarter of the year, 47 Enforcement Matters and 21 Enforcement Investigations. 

In 2016, seven Trade Marks Agents were registered in the British Virgin Islands, of them 3 Individual and 4 Partnership Agents. In the first quarter of 2016, 78 new Trade Marks applications were registered in the jurisdiction.

Monday, June 27, 2016

British Virgin Islands Continues Developing Internet Infrastructure

The British Virgin Islands has established an internet exchange point; BVI-IX is an investment that would help the jurisdiction to strengthen its telecommunications infrastructure and encourage the development of local digital content. Now, the so called 'phase two' was initiated by BVI officials, by words of chief technical officer of the BVI Telecommunications Regulatory Commission.

BVI is working with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, an inter-governmental telecommunications policy organisation, and US-based non-profit firm Packet Clearing House (PCH), to develop their IXP to the next level

During the coming months, technical training and workshops will be organized on network security, local content and electronic commerce, to help the local market realise possible benefits.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

BVI Launches Research of BVI Financial Services Sector

A research was commissioned by the BVI government with the purpose to examine contribution of the jurisdiction's financial services industry to the global economy. As part of the project, a research team from Capital Economics will visit the British Virgin Islands on 27-29 June to meet with representatives of the government, BVI FSC and the industry, and get preliminary results. The study will be funded both by the government and the private sector.

The main subject of the research will be financial, economic and legislative ties between the financial services industry in the BVI and the international community. It will show how BVI business structures have facilitated global commerce by connecting markets and launching global investment, trade and capital flow. Special focus will be made on BVI connections with the Chinese economy and its growth

According to the executive director of BVI Finance Lorna Smith, “The Capital Economics study will provide valuable research, facts and figures to help promote the jurisdiction, assist potential clients in better understanding the benefits of doing business in the BVI and challenge ill-informed voices in the international community seeking to dispute the value that the BVI’s financial services brings to global business.”

Friday, June 10, 2016

BVI Government Enacted Virgin Islands Deposit Insurance Act

The BVI government has enacted the Virgin Islands Deposit Insurance Act 2016 (VIDIC Act), providing some level of protection to depositors of financial institutions in the jurisdiction. The legal act was passed on April 25 and gazetted on May 19. By words of the BVI Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr Orlando Smith, the VIDIC Act will strengthen economic stability of the BVI financial system, and will contribute to increased consumer confidence.

The deposit insurance system has the purpose to protect depositors who are not in a position to assess the risks of the institution in which they choose to put their deposits. It will also automatically protect depositors' insured funds against major financial losses, in case the financial institution fails. The VIDIC Act provides for the establishment of the Virgin Islands Deposit Insurance Corporation, which will provide insurance against loss of deposits.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Opposition Party Holds Meeting with Number of Issues Discussed

The Opposition Virgin Islands Party (VIP) had a meeting on May 25, with the main agenda item being the need to get new members and general election candidates. Among party members who participated in the discussion were Chairman Julian Frazer and Andrew Fahie. According to the media release of the opposition party, “The sole topic of discussion for the evening was centered on, ‘whether or not the leadership and members of the Virgin Islands Party are prepared to identify and make the decisions necessary to attract new members, attract new candidates, and be successful at the next or future general elections.”

The next meeting of the party will be held on July 20, 2016. Among other things to be discussed, there are the formation of a sub-committee to review the VIP Constitution, examining the revitalization of its Events and Fundraising Committee, and the establishment of a date for the election of party members to the Executive Committee.

Friday, May 13, 2016

BVI Premier Speaks about Territory’s Financial Services Industry

In a media release published on May 9, 2016, BVI Premier Dr D Orlando Smith said to the people and businesses of the British Virgin Islands that they must not worry about the uncertainty regarding the financial services industry in the jurisdiction. The statement came just before the UK government’s major Anti-Corruption Summit particularly devoted to financial services. 

The Premier and Minister of finance of the British Virgin Islands said: “... the midst of today’s uncertain environment, our financial services industry remains strong and our commitment to it is rock solid. We are one of the world’s leading financial centres and will continue to be so for the future… In partnership with industry, we remain focused on what matters most – creating value for all industry stakeholders including businesses, investors, service providers and the people of the BVI.” 

At the same time, the leaked documents of the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca proved that the BVI was the single largest jurisdiction for company registrations and questionable operations of the law firm. The BVI government has said it was not aware of anything on the part of Mossack Fonseca, and ordered a “thorough investigation” on this case. About 60 per cent of BVI annual revenues come from financial services sector.

Friday, April 29, 2016

BVI Published Information on Beneficial Ownership Agreement with UK

BVI has published the notes and technical protocols related to the exchange of information on beneficial ownership of companies agreed with the United Kingdom. According to this agreement, the countries agreed to share beneficial ownership information, and also committed to ensuring relevancy, accuracy and security of this information.

In the British Virgin Islands, this information is to be held through the electronic portal which will be accessed by BVI authorities only. On request, it will be shared with UK law enforcement agencies. The BVI law enforcement authorities will be able to request from UK law enforcement all of its non-public information on beneficial ownership.

By words of BVI Premier Dr Orlando Smith, the agreement with UK will “further enhance the BVI regime which already surpasses that of many other jurisdictions in the world. It will also ensure that in order to protect our business and the interests of BVI, when it comes to transparency and information exchange, BVI’s rules and regulations are totally fit for purpose.”

Monday, April 18, 2016

BVI Meets International Standards on Beneficial Ownership

On 11 April, British Prime Minister David Cameron made the statement in the House of Commons, having commended the BVI and other Overseas Crown Dependencies for enhancing co-operation with the United Kingdom, especially in the areas related to beneficial ownership and international exchange of tax information. The statement was welcomed by BVI Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Orlando Smith as reinforcing the BVI’s long-standing commitment to international standards on tax and transparency and to maintaining its robust regulatory regime.

A week earlier, the UK and the jurisdiction agreed to sign an exchange of notes on beneficial ownership between the countries, setting their mutual commitment to exchange beneficial ownership information between law enforcement agencies for the detection and prevention of criminal matters. This agreement may be considered as complementary to BVI’s good standing in meeting international commitments on tax, transparency and anti-corruption under Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the United Nations (UN).

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

BVI Faces Consequences of ‘Panama Papers’ Leak

BVI authorities said that the leak of confidential data from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca specializing in offshore financial services, which included about 11 million documents, prompted them to look for any breaches of financial regulations in the Caribbean territory. BVI-registered companies play the most important role in the leaked records, the same way as BVI takes its prominent place in the global offshore financial industry.

BVI financial regulating services have issued a statement where they say that they will ‘pursue a thorough investigation through the BVI's competent authorities, and further action will be taken, where necessary’.

Last year, there were 9,388 company incorporations in the BVI, down from 11,436 the previous year. The BVI is said to have ‘rigorous’ regulatory oversight of its financial sector and adhere to international standards.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Statutory Deadlines Extended for BVI Financial Institutions

The BVI Financial Account Reporting System will be ready to accept UK CDOT or UK FATCA filings by May 2, 2016. BVI Financial Institutions have been informed of this fact, and they can submit their reports to the International Tax Authority as of this date and no later than the extended dates which are as follows: the statutory deadline for registration with the Tax Authority is extended from April 1 to June 10, and the statutory deadline to submit 2014 and 2015 reportable accounts to the ITA is extended from May 31 to July 29.

The extended deadlines relate only to reportable accounts submitted via BVI Financial Account Reporting System. Concerning the Alternative Reporting Regime (ARR) under UK CDOT and UK FATCA, the original statutory deadline remains the same.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

BVI Budget Debate Starting on Tuesday

BVI Territory's largest proposed budget debate is to start on March 22, more than month after being presented by BVI Premier and Minister of Finance Dr Orlando Smith, and after weeks of meeting where parliamentarians examined the budget for the 2016 fiscal year; also, Accounting officers participated in these meetings, discussing plans for the ministries and departments. The meetings have finished, and now both the government and opposition sides will take part in the budget debate, which will be followed by the approval of the proposed budget, possibly with changes.

In his budget speech, the premier announced new tax measures which will make people pay more for work permits and water supply, and, along with new legislation enforcing compliance, will enable the government to collect over US$20mln in revenues. He said, however, that these new tax measures ‘will not have any great effect on the citizens of the BVI’. The opposition responded to this statement, saying that the tax increases are being proposed at a time when more people have less.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

UK and BVI Delegations Meet to Discuss Common Strategies against Financial Crimes

On February 25-26, senior representatives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the National Crime Agency and Serious Fraud Office (SFO) visited the British Virgin Islands, being invited by premier and minister of finance Dr Orlando Smith to engage in further discussions on strengthening legal framework to fight cross-border financial crimes in the UK and BVI.

The UK delegation included director of the FCO’s Overseas Territories Directorate, Dr Peter Hayes; FCO’s senior policy adviser, economic and financial services, Russell Phillips; and the NCA’s head of bribery, corruption and sanctions, Andy Lewis. The BVI delegation consisted of the premier and representatives from the ministry of finance, Attorney General’s Chambers, Financial Investigation Agency, Financial Services Commission and International Tax Authority.

Discussions focused on how law enforcement agencies can further build upon their relationship to provide an effective beneficial ownership regime. During the meeting, the UK delegation learned about the ongoing reform processes in the British Virgin Islands to strengthen the territory’s international cooperation. The strategies were discussed to engage in ongoing dialogue to build confidence and cooperation against cross border criminal activities.

Friday, February 12, 2016

BVI Premier Presented Budget for This Year

British Virgin Islands Premier and Minister of Finance Dr D Orlando Smith presented BVI budget for the current fiscal year, of just over US$330 million. The budget of the previous year was US$311 million. The budget of fiscal year 2016 is one of the largest budgets presented by any of governments in the region, and the first since Smith’s party won in general elections held this year.

On February 8, BVI Premier presented his budget speech in the House of Assembly, where stated that projections for recurrent spending have been placed at $286,512,400, in addition to projected revenues of exactly $330,846,500.