Last week, Britain published a draft order that outlines the guidelines OTs must abide by as they all move to implement systems that reveal the owners of the offshore companies they register. The policy — which is called the Overseas Territories (Publicly Accessible Registers of Beneficial Ownership of Companies) Order — says any person from the general public should be able to use the internet and request information on owners of companies registered by the financial services industries in all OTs.
But Premier Andrew Fahie has told the UK government that the BVI “has significant reservations regarding the Draft Order”.
Following this response, BVI News asked Governor Jaspert to state the best course of action he believes the BVI should take. A written response from the Governor’s office said: “The Governor supports any legislation or initiatives that would help make BVI a more transparent place.”
Governor Jaspert said the BVI should consider adhering to the draft order as it has advantages for the BVI’s economy and its reputation.
“The financial services industry is a critical part of BVI’s economy and therefore it’s important we stay ahead of the curve. This move puts BVI and our financial services sector at the forefront of global efforts to improve transparency and stop the flow of illicit finance. We believe it’s in BVI’s best interest – economically and reputationally,” the response said.
The draft order states that a register is “publicly accessible” if, and only if the information contained in it may be accessed by any member of the general public AND the means by which such information may be accessed include through a request submitted through the Internet.”
But in his response, Governor Jaspert explained that this doesn’t mean companies’ information will be posted on a website for all to see.
“We understand that some may have concerns about privacy and security – the draft order makes allowances for this. To be clear ‘publicly accessible registers’ does not mean that personal information of company owners is listed on a website for all to see,” Governor Jaspert’s statement explained.
“What it means is that the public can submit a request to access information on company ownership. That request will then be assessed by relevant authorities. Once they are satisfied there are no security or other risks to sharing the information, it will be released,” the statement said.
Last week, the BVI government said it was already regulating the financial services industry with the Beneficial Ownership Secure Search system (BOSSs) which the BVI established in 2017.
BOSSs is different from the system the UK is proposing because it doesn’t share personal information with the general public but only with “relevant law enforcement agencies to prevent financial crime”.
At this point, it is unclear what consequences the BVI’s financial services industry will face if the territory doesn’t implement publicly accessible registers in accordance with the UK’s new policy.
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