The United Kingdom and representatives of its Overseas Territories (OTs) have agreed to hold an annual dialogue on the subject of illicit finances that pose a constant threat to the financial services industries in these jurisdictions.
Details of this annual dialogue are yet to be worked out but according to Minister for Financial Services, Labour and Trade Lorna Smith, the BVI has offered to host the first meeting on the subject of illicit finances later this year.
“I’m very pleased to announce that the Honourable Premier’s offer for the Virgin Islands
to host the first meeting on the subject has been accepted by his colleagues — OT leaders and the United Kingdom,” Smith revealed at a press conference on May 16.
The announcement of an annual dialogue on illicit finances is an important one. The UK and its OTs all have thriving financial services industries that are constantly accused of being tax havens for individuals who’ve attained wealth by illicit means.
There are also global cries for these jurisdictions to implement publicly accessible registers to reveal the identities of wealthy people who hide wealth so their home countries can levy much-needed taxes against them.
To this end, Smith said the BVI discussed the matter of publicly accessible registers at recent fora in London. She said the BVI delegation reiterated that the territory is willing to implement registers in accordance with international standards. At the same time, Smith reiterated that at this moment, the BVI is not obligated to implement unrestricted access to registers within its financial services industry as a European Court recently ruled that doing so would be unconstitutional.
In the meantime, Smith also revealed that the UK and OTs recently agreed to establish a technical working group on beneficial ownership transparency. She said the group will share expertise and discuss issues surrounding the implementation of publicly accessible registers while ensuring the necessary safeguards to protect the privacy rights of individuals who do business with these jurisdictions.