Statement
8 March 2019 - 4:39pm

Statement On The UK Financial Services Bill Postponement
By Premier And Minister Of Finance
The Honourable Andrew A. Fahie

MARCH 08, 2019

Ladies and Gentleman of the Virgin Islands,

Last Friday, I brought to the attention of the people of the Virgin Islands a new development in the UK Parliament which sought to amend the Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill on public registers of beneficial ownership.  

The purpose of the amendment was to set the deadline for the implementation of public registers, potentially through Order in Council, in the Overseas Territories to 2020. As you are aware, the UK Government had previously stated that the deadline would be December 2023.

Today, I am here to provide an update on this matter which has great significance for our Territory.

However, before I begin, I would like to take a moment to humbly thank you for your prayers to the God of our forefathers regarding this matter. Your support is greatly appreciated.

The amendment was originally due to be debated on Monday, 4 March and put to a vote. I am pleased to announce that this vote was postponed. It is my strong view that your prayers played a role in this delay.

In addition, just today in Parliament the UK Government has indicated that it will need further time to consider the amendment and a future date for a vote has not been confirmed.

While we welcome this move, we remain vigilant.

In particular, the Government of the BVI will continue to engage with UK Government Ministers and Parliamentarians, outlining the reasons why we reject the basis of the amendment and the amendment itself.

I continue to be concerned at the lack of recognition within some quarters of the UK Parliament of the quality of the BVI’s financial services; our robust levels of regulation; and our commitment to counter financial crimes – all elements which are widely acknowledged by global standard setters including the Financial Action Task Force and the OECD.

During my tenure as Premier, it is my intent that our levels of engagement in the UK and elsewhere will focus on explaining how our system works to the benefit of all those who wish to ensure that financial crime and tax evasion are effectively countered.

As part of our ongoing dialogue, we will explain how public registers are not a definitive solution for improving transparency in the financial services sector, but that verified and up to date systems for holding beneficial ownership, such as our own Beneficial Ownership Secure Search system, (BOSSs), can be extremely effective aids to law enforcement authorities and much more so than the unverified public register which the UK hosts.

It is our understanding that the UK Government’s relevant authorities are pleased with the way our Beneficial Ownership Secure Search system has facilitated the swift exchange of information.

Let me be clear, the Beneficial Ownership Secure Search system is world class and surpasses what many other jurisdictions have. It is our every expectation that the close cooperation and harmonious relationship between the UK Government and BVI authorities will continue.

Nevertheless, while we will continue to engage with the UK on this matter, it must be remembered that the Overseas Territories, like the Crown Dependencies, are separate jurisdictions with our own democratically elected legislatures.

It has been a long observed practice that the UK Parliament does not legislate without the consent of the BVI and other Overseas Territories in those areas devolved to their elected governments. To consider an Order in Council in a matter such as this, which has been clearly delegated to the BVI, can be viewed as a constitutional overreach.

Your government will do everything we can to protect the interest of the people of the BVI and maintain our position as a leading international business and finance centre.

We need you to continue to pray for a favourable outcome in this and other matters such as, but not limited to, the EU substance listing.

I will continue to update you on developments with the UK Government and Parliament.

God bless you.  May God bless these beautiful Virgin Islands.

Thank you.

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