REMARKS BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE DR. THE HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
DURING A PRESS BRIEFING ON FINANCIAL SERVICES
FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2016
Ladies and gentlemen of the media good afternoon.
As you are aware, the start of this week has been quite interesting and challenging for our financial services sector, an industry that we have long been fighting hard to defend due to report raises by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) of the Panama Paper, particularly regarding alleged abuse or misuse of BVI structures.
On Tuesday, April 5, my Government announced that we are taking those allegations seriously.
That is why we have announced that through our competent authorities, an investigation would be carried out. I am aware that the competent authorities have initiated an investigative process and will take action, where necessary.
The BVI always actively investigates issues of non-compliance.
In fact, we work with foreign competent authorities to detect, prevent and prosecute illegal activities. This is important to us because we want to ensure that our laws are enforced and action is taken, transparently, when we identify wrongdoing.
We continue to play a constructive role in the furtherance of international transparency, information exchange and anti-money laundering initiatives at the highest levels.
Additionally, we continue to work closely with the United Kingdom (UK) Government to help progress the financial reform agenda. We continue to engage with the UK Government constructively on various issues.
For example, the BVI and the UK have long enjoyed a mature relationship, underpinned by our Constitution, which is founded on mutual recognition and respect. I am pleased that the UK Government has always supported the UK Overseas Territories’ right to self-governance and self-determination.
This afternoon, I am pleased to announce that after several rounds of technical discussions and exchanges between BVI and United Kingdom (UK) law enforcement authorities since the 2015 Joint Ministerial Council (JMC), the Government of the British Virgin Islands and UK Government have reached an agreement to enhance cooperation between our respective law enforcement authorities in the fight against international financial crime.
Earlier today, I have agreed to sign an Exchange of Notes on Beneficial Ownership with the UK that builds on the successful existing relationship and daily exchanges between BVI and UK law enforcement authorities who remain in regular contact.
The agreement also bolsters the BVI’s ongoing international cooperation with other jurisdictions around the world, particularly fellow members of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, and is complimentary to the jurisdiction’s good standing in meeting our international commitments on tax, transparency and anti-corruption under Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the and the United Nations (UN).
In effect, we have agreed on the principles and process for improving information exchange with the UK.
The Exchange of Notes also meets our Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) Communique 2015 commitments with the UK in which we agreed to “further developing a timely, safe and secure information exchange process to increase our collective effectiveness for the purpose of law enforcement” in relation to beneficial ownership.
The BVI’s long-standing commitment to international standards on tax and transparency, our robust regulatory regime, and enhanced cooperation with the UK underscores our continuous efforts to maintain the integrity of the international financial system.
As Premier and Minister of Finance, I can assure the public and our international partners, that the BVI will remain a jurisdiction of the highest integrity and a reliable international partner.
As an international finance centre, the British Virgin Islands have always prided ourselves on robust regulation in maintaining the integrity of our jurisdiction and doing our part to maintain the integrity of the wider international financial system in which we operate.
This is one of the main reasons the BVI is the jurisdiction of choice for international business.