Today the United Kingdom Government (UKG) has published the draft Overseas Territories (Publicly Accessible Registers of Beneficial Ownership of Companies) Order (Draft Order) and accompanying explanatory note.
The Premier and Minister of Finance of the Virgin Islands, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie, has communicated to the UKG that while the Virgin Islands remains committed to the global efforts aimed at tackling illicit financial flows, and will continue to cooperate with international-standard setting bodies on matters related to information exchange, beneficial ownership and economic substance, the Government of the Virgin Islands has significant reservations regarding the Draft Order.
Premier said, “In particular, the Draft Order mandates the creation of publicly accessible registers permitting general public access to a range of data of a personal and private nature. In so doing, the Draft Order may pose a threat to those privacy rights secured to individuals under the Constitution of the Virgin Islands.”
He added, “This is, however, subject to ongoing proceedings before the Virgin Islands High Court and so the Premier will not comment further except to say that this is a matter for the Court to consider and decide in the usual way.”
The Government of the Virgin Islands remains committed to monitoring, contributing to and following any global standard on the implementation of publicly accessible registers of beneficial ownership, including through its work with standard-setting bodies such as Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Current regulation of financial services in the Virgin Islands is compliant with global best practice. Indeed, the Beneficial Ownership Secure Search system (“BOSSs”) was established by Virgin Islands legislation in 2017 as part of the BVI’s commitment to ensure effective cooperation between relevant law enforcement agencies to prevent financial crime.
Premier said that any modification of the BOSS system could only be done taking into account the concerns raised by the Government of the Virgin Islands, global best practice and obligations under the Constitution of the Virgin Islands.