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20 Jan 2021

A statement on the recently announced Commission of Inquiry

The Governor of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and United Kingdom Government have made it clear that the financial services industry is not a focus of its inquiry into allegations of governance issues in the BVI.

The BVI’s reputation as a leading global financial centre is built on a 30-year track record of international collaboration and of meeting the highest international regulatory standards on transparency and information sharing, in addition to combatting financial crime and money laundering.

Furthermore, the BVI was one of the first of the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to develop an advanced, verifiable and accessible company register which is fully compliant with international standards and has created an effective beneficial ownership process that has been recognised internationally.

The BVI’s system has continually been updated in line with changing global standards. In 2016, the BVI signed an Exchange of Notes with the UK Government relating to beneficial ownership of companies. In the agreement, the BVI committed to ensuring the information is adequate, accurate and current and that it will be held securely; as well as sharing the information in a timely (and in urgent cases within an hour) fashion.

In 2017, the BVI launched its Beneficial Ownership Secure Search system (BOSSs) a cutting-edge electronic search engine that enables the relevant BVI Authorities to have a searchable database with information on BVI Companies and their beneficial owners. This system was pioneered to facilitate the sharing and searching of BVI Beneficial Ownership information. The BVI’s BOSS system has been lauded by global law enforcement authorities, such as the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and 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.

The BVI currently shares information with more than 200 countries around the world. In 2019, the BVI Government acknowledged positive comments made by the then UK Home Secretary reflecting the level of cooperation between UK and BVI law enforcement authorities, following a review into the implementation of the Exchange of Notes (EoN) on Beneficial Ownership information.

The UK Home Secretary stated that UK Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) had found the EoN ‘extremely useful’ in accessing information needed to support their investigations. In September 2020, the Premier and Minister of Finance of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Honourable Andrew A. Fahie, reiterated the support of the BVI’s Government for working with the UK Government towards implementation of a publicly accessible register of beneficial ownership for companies in line with international standards.

One of the foundations of the BVI’s financial services industry is the certainty from its legal system, which is based on English common law. The BVI’s own Commercial Court, established in 2009, has increased the BVI’s reputation as a world-class financial services centre.

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