STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE DR. THE HONOURABLE ORLANDO SMITH, OBE
URING THE FOURTH SITTING OF THE THIRD SESSION OF THE THIRD HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
ON THURSDAY 26 APRIL, 2018
AT THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
ROAD TOWN, TORTOLA AT 10:00 A.M.
United Kingdom Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill
Madam Speaker, I wish to make a statement about an issue which has arisen in the UK Parliament. This relates to the legislative progress of a UK Parliamentary Bill, the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill.
Madam Speaker, throughout the progress of the Bill the BVI and other Overseas Territories have faced attempts by the Opposition to amend it so that public registers of beneficial ownership would be imposed on the Overseas Territories by the United Kingdom Parliament.
Madam Speaker, as the bill reaches its final stages on Tuesday of next week, a number of senior Conservative MPs have now added their support to those of the Opposition to try and pass this amendment.
Madam Speaker, the BVI’s London Office has engaged UK Parliamentarians throughout passage of the bill to explain our robust regulatory system - a system which has been recently enhanced with the introduction of the Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System. This puts BVI at the cutting edge of facilitating effective law enforcement against those who might seek to use our business companies for nefarious purposes. It ensures that verified and current beneficial ownership information is directly and immediately available to BVI competent authorities.
Madam Speaker, the United Kingdom Government is supportive of BVI’s position and continues to oppose the amendment, but as a minority administration there is no certainty that its view will prevail.
Madam Speaker, the BVI’s London Office and the offices of other Overseas Territories will continue to engage with Parliamentarians in the United Kingdom. The office is focused on explaining the full and cooperative part BVI has played in the development and implementation of global tax transparency standards and the steps we have taken in the fight against financial crime. The Government will continue to make clear that should public registers become the global standard, then BVI will comply.
Madam Speaker, we reject the idea that that our democratically elected Government should be superseded by the United Kingdom Parliament, especially in an area which has been entrusted to the BVI people. This flies in the face of constitutional arrangements made with the UK when our new Constitution was approved in 2007. It would undermine the constitutional relationship between the BVI and the UK and indeed be a sad day for democracy.
Thank you Madam Speaker.