In the last quarter of 2013, I informed you of the launch of a public consultation on beneficial ownership of companies registered here in the British Virgin Islands. I am pleased to report that this consultation is complete. This consultation was in response to a policy proposed by the Government of the United Kingdom to maintain a central registry in which information on the ultimate beneficial ownership of companies would be held. The UK Government’s desire is to see this policy adopted in the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories of the United Kingdom.
The financial services industry, which could be directly affected by this policy, is a significant - in fact, the largest contributor to government revenues and a significant part of the current BVI economy. Therefore, before the Government could consider the implementation of this proposal, it was important to determine the extent to which such a move would affect our industry, if implemented.
Ladies and gentlemen, I can state emphatically and categorically that the Government’s commitment to transparency and combatting the proliferation of illicit financing remains resolute and firm. We take very seriously, the essential role we must play in protecting the integrity of the global financial system.
We also understand and support the UK Government’s objectives regarding maintaining beneficial ownership information in a central registry, yet we must be mindful of the results of the consultation.
The results in the Consultation Report show that there is very strong confidence throughout the industry in our existing regime by over 80% of respondents. It concludes that the system we currently have in place achieves the same outcomes, using an equally effective mechanism.
This system meets the FATF standards and those set out in the G20 High-Level Principles on Beneficial Ownership and Transparency.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the International Business Companies Act developed more than 30 years ago was the precursor and model on which many other regimes of this nature around the world are modelled. Over the years our systems have enabled the BVI to play a pivotal role in the global fight against financial crime. This has been done by not only meeting, but in many ways exceeding, international standards.
We have long supported efforts to counter those who might seek to use the jurisdiction for nefarious purposes and we have partnered successfully with international regulators, competent authorities, and law enforcement to do so. The BVI, for example, is an early adopter of the Common Reporting Standard on the automatic exchange of information. We have also concluded Automatic Tax Information Exchange Agreements with the United Kingdom and the United States and joined the Multilateral Convention on tax matters to build on our network of 27 bilateral tax information exchange agreements.
We will thus continue to ensure that not only do we play an important role in combatting the illicit use of international business vehicles but also that the industry in the BVI remains an efficient and important hub for international trade and investment supporting the global economy.
I am grateful to the industry for their candid views. We will continue to engage both the industry and the United Kingdom on the matter, and expect to announce the Governments position shortly. The partnership we have built over the decades remains a cornerstone of our future success.