Asia Representative of the BVI’s Financial Services Commission, Mr. Leon Wheatley has affirmed that the “British Virgin Islands (BVI) has continued to take steps towards increasing the level of its transparency as well as enhance international cooperation capabilities and efficiency.” Mr. Wheatley was speaking to the 300 plus attendees at the Companies Registry’s Corporate Governance Roundtable, held at the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel in Hong Kong.
The BVI operates and maintains a well-regulated financial services system, which is committed to transparency, integrity and proper regulation, according to international standard setters such as the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which have made periodic assessments of the jurisdiction. The BVI regulator said that as a result, the BVI has been placed “among the most compliant jurisdictions globally”.
During the Panama Papers episode, Mr. Wheatley continued, many of the media outlets covering the story were surprised to learn that the BVI has received favourable reviews by respected international bodies such as those mentioned above, and that the BVI has a documented history of early adoption of a number of global initiatives. Essentially, the reporters uncovered what many within the industry had long known – that the BVI has been a well-regulated jurisdiction for financial services.
Mr. Wheatley noted that at present, the information the public can obtain about a BVI company includes the memorandum and articles of association, certificate of incorporation, name change certificates and registers the companies may elect to file, such as the register of charges. Information that is not publicly available includes the register of directors, the register of members, beneficial ownership information and resolutions/minutes.
Last year, the BVI embarked on a project to have all BVI companies file their register of directors with the Registry of Corporate Affairs to ensure compliance with FATF recommendations. These files are not publicly available; however, they may be accessed by a competent authority.
Under the BVI’s legacy system, corporate service providers for years were required to seek licencing to operate in the BVI. This legal requirement does not exist in many jurisdictions, and affords the BVI the opportunity to assess entities during the application phase, conduct desk based monitoring following licencing, and conduct onsite inspections. In addition to placing increased focus on the testing of IT systems during the conduct of onsite compliance inspections, the BVI is currently considering the possible implementation of legislation that would introduce minimum standards for data security for licenced corporate service providers.
“In order to facilitate all of the above, corporate registries, government agencies, corporate service providers and the wider industry will have to devote considerable resources and time towards meeting these standards,” Mr. Wheatley concluded. “But I do think the end result will be a more compliant industry, a standard and goal the BVI has always played its part in striving to achieve in the global marketplace.”