The Premier of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE, and the Leader of the Opposition, Honourable Andrew Fahie, have called on the United Kingdom (UK) Government and Parliament to respect the Virgin Islands Constitution ahead of the House of Lords consideration of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill on May 21 and its provisions on public central registers of beneficial ownership in the Overseas Territories.
In a series of meetings in London this week, the BVI delegation led by Premier Smith reiterated to UK parliamentarians and UK Ministers and officials that the UK Parliament's unilateral imposition of a public register on the British Virgin Islands is not consistent with the constitutional arrangements between the BVI and the UK.
They also restated that the BVI will continue to meet the current global standard on beneficial ownership that does not require public registers and to maintain effective exchange of beneficial ownership information with UK law enforcement and those of other jurisdictions.
Commenting, Premier Smith said: “Honourable Fahie and I have had a full and frank exchange of views with senior members of the House of Lords and other persons and are gratified for the support we have received. There is currently no global standard on public registers of company beneficial ownership and, until there is, we will not implement one.
“However, be in no doubt, that if the UK Parliament proceeds with seeking to impose public registers on the British Virgin Islands that this could fundamentally alter our relationship with the UK and we will take all necessary steps to protect our constitutional rights.”
Honourable Andrew Fahie said: “The Premier and I have made our position clear and both agree that this is constitutional overreach. We stand united on protecting the constitutional rights of the British Virgin Islands.”
In the likely event that the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill passes in its current form, the BVI Government will continue its fight against what it sees as a constitutional overreach.