STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
DURING THE 13TH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
BVI’s Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System (BOSSs)
21 July, 2020
Mr. Speaker, I will now make a statement on the British Virgin Islands’ (BVI) Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System (BOSSs).
Mr. Speaker, BVI is one of the first International Finance Centres (IFCs) to create a verified register of the beneficial owners of companies.
The BVI’s Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System enables direct access by BVI competent authorities to beneficial ownership information on companies incorporated in the BVI.
This is subject to meeting strict due diligence guidelines established by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, including know your customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) checks in line with global standards.
In 2017, the BVI introduced an innovative digital platform, which has been held-up as a gold standard in accessible company registers. It was developed by the international accountancy firm BDO on behalf of the British Virgin Islands.
To support the new system, the Government of the Virgin Islands passed the Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System Act 2017, which mandates the on boarding of specific beneficial owner information for BVI Corporate and Legal Entities into a secure platform in order for this information to be searchable by a designated Competent Authority upon valid request.
In BOSSs, the BVI has established a system that maintains controlled transparency, which is safer and more secure for individuals, and more effective to law enforcement than unlimited transparency.
Indeed, an accessible, verified register or system for maintaining well-regulated beneficial ownership information can ensure that financial crime is mitigated just as well as a public register and certainly better than an unverified register of any kind.
The BVI model is unique in its use of licensed and regulated Corporate Service Providers to verify ownership criteria and incorporate companies.
I will share some key facts about the BVI’s Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System--BOSSs.
- BOSSs is a fully searchable platform holding data on the beneficial owners of companies incorporated in the BVI.
- All beneficial ownership data entered into the system is fully verified, and the platform requires the registration of the Legal Name, Date of Birth, Residential Address and Nationality of the Beneficial Owner - unlike alternative systems where all the information is required and incomplete registrations are not possible.
- Only licensed and regulated Corporate Service Providers (CSPs) can incorporate a company in the BVI. By law, each CSP is required to do customer due diligence. If the person is considered to be a politically exposed person, then they are required to do enhanced customer due diligence.
- The BVI regulator, the Financial Services Commission (FSC) conducts regular on-site inspections to ensure agents are complying by standards and are updating systems with fully verified information.
- BOSSs is de-centralised and cloud based, using the highest levels of security and encryption. It is maintained by a team of 25 data engineers and is operational 24/7, 365 days a year. The cloud infrastructure, combined with the rigorous management system ensures the database systems are accessible 99.99 percent of the time, and search capabilities are always able to be carried out.
- BOSSs meet the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.
- BOSSs has been designed for geo-replication as a business continuity solution that allows the platform to continue to be accessible in case of a regional disaster or large-scale outage.
- Under BOSSs, requests for information can and have been returned within one hour.
- BOSSs is fully compliant with international standards and is subject to meeting strict due diligence guidelines established by the FATF, including KYC and AML checks in line with global standards.
- BOSSs has been lauded by global law enforcement authorities, such as the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).
- Several countries have visited the BVI to learn about and emulate the BOSS system.
- BOSSs has made vital contributions to the global fight against financial and economic crime and was integral to disclosing information that warranted the UK's first Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO), obtained by the NCA in 2018.
Mr. Speaker, the BVI has joined the UK in making a political commitment to support the development of a new global system for the systematic exchange of beneficial ownership information on a reciprocal basis which is secure; respects confidentiality; is in a searchable format; minimises additional burdens and achieves a level playing field.
The BVI has always been clear in its commitment to effective cooperation between relevant law enforcement agencies to prevent the prevalence of financial crime, and such efforts have led to the development of an advanced, verifiable and accessible company register.
Mr. Speaker, in ending let me say here that our Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System — BOSSs — is fully compliant with international standards and has created an effective beneficial ownership process that has been recognised internationally.