As a follow up to meetings in London in December of last year’s Joint Ministerial Council, and in response to an invitation from Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE, senior representatives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, particularly the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Serious Fraud Office (SFO) visited the Territory from February 25 to 26 to engage in further technical discussions on strengthening the legal framework for cooperation to tackle cross-border financial crime in both jurisdictions.
Additionally, discussions focused on how the respective ‘law enforcement agencies’ of both countries can further build upon their current good working relationship to provide an effective beneficial ownership regime.
The UK delegation comprised Director of the FCO’s Overseas Territories Directorate, Dr. Peter Hayes; FCO’s Senior Policy Adviser, Economic and Financial Services, Mr. Russell Phillips; and the NCA’s Head of Bribery, Corruption and Sanctions, Mr. Andy Lewis.
The BVI delegation comprised Honourable Premier and representatives from the Ministry of Finance, Attorney General’s Chambers, Financial Investigation Agency, Financial Services Commission and International Tax Authority.
The meeting provided an opportunity for the UK delegation to learn about the ongoing reform processes that the Territory has embarked upon to strengthen the Territory’s international cooperation practices.
Furthermore, the team discussed strategies for engaging in ongoing positive dialogue to build confidence and cooperation in combating cross border criminal activities.
Premier Smith stated, “It was a constructive meeting and we now look forward to strengthening the partnership and cooperation between both governments.”
He re-emphasised his Government’s continued commitment to transparency as it seeks to solidify the Territory’s financial services industry.
“The Government of the Virgin Islands continues to build an effective regime to attract legitimate business, and at the same time combat those who may seek to use BVI companies for nefarious purposes,” he said.
He added that the Government will continue to work closely with the local financial institutions and the UK to ensure that as a jurisdiction, the Territory remains a competitive, highly reputable and internationally respected international finance centre.
His Excellency John S. Duncan, OBE, who was present at the meetings commented, “The discussions have been very useful providing both sides the opportunity to learn and understand each other’s regime on international cooperation and, in particular, to map out relevant policy issues that would strengthen further bilateral cooperation between the UK and the BVI, especially as it relates to the subject of beneficial ownership.”
The Government of the Virgin Islands will continue to keep stakeholders and the pubic updated on material issues relating to and affecting the financial services industry.