As the Anti-Corruption Summit takes place in London today, the Territory is putting forward its proposal for a workable solution for global standards for beneficial ownership, which balances the need for both appropriate levels of privacy and transparency.
It is focused on three key pillars – data security, appropriate legal constraints and the principle that any new standard must be applied globally to enable a level playing field.
Premier and Minister of Finance Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE said: “The BVI welcomes the leadership the UK has shown in this area and supports the desire to achieve a new globally applied information exchange regime on beneficial ownership that is equal and even in its application across the board.
He added, “We believe that achieving this goal requires further details and discussions about how it would apply in practice and be effectively implemented consistently and globally, together with time to assess its impact on the BVI economy in the short and longer term.
He further stated, “We would expect to participate in discussions by international standard setters as the proposed standard is developed and we commit to implement the standard once it is agreed and adopted by all UK Overseas Territories, Crown Dependencies, G20 and OECD Member States.”
Data Security: The moment we begin housing vast amounts of highly sensitive, private business information and then providing access to that information to a wide array of actors, the risk of a breach goes up immeasurably. If legitimate businesses fear that their international transactions will be exposed to the world, or, worse yet, accessed by criminals or terrorists and used as a weapon of extortion or intimidation, then the gears of international finance will start to grind more slowly.
Appropriate Legal Constraints: Governments and law enforcement agencies have legitimate reasons for seeking access to otherwise confidential business information and, therefore, must be subject to appropriate safeguards.
Globally Applied Standard: Any new standard must be applied globally and equitably, or there is significant risk that illicit activity will merely find a home in less well-regulated or non-compliant jurisdictions. Global standards require global application in order for them to be truly effective. A level playing field in this effort is therefore paramount.
Premier Smith said, “There is no doubt that combatting the efforts of criminals and terrorists to flow money through the international financial system can be aided by empowering law enforcement in one jurisdiction to quickly and easily access company ownership information in another jurisdiction. We continue to work closely with the UK Government to find solutions to these issues.”
In the meantime, the BVI recognises the importance of wider collaboration between tax and law enforcement authorities on beneficial ownership information and is willing to pursue similar exchange of notes and protocols as that recently established between the UK and the BVI with other countries.