Under fire from critics, the financial sector retreats

The Virgin Islands’ financial services sector generated $196 million in revenue for the territory last year, up from $189.75 million the previous year, and has kept the economy largely afloat during the pandemic. of Covid-19, BVI Finance CEO Elise Donovan said in a recent press briefing. as part of a new information campaign called BVI 360.

The “factual content series” — which includes reports and other publications — is designed largely to highlight the importance of the industry to the territory and to counter negative media coverage, she explained.

In recent years, she acknowledged, such media coverage has included reports of high-profile issues: high-profile leaks that exposed the secret owners of VI-based companies; the recent investigation which revealed a high likelihood of government corruption; and the arrest of former Prime Minister Andrew Fahie for drug trafficking and money laundering in Miami.

“With everything that has happened, we are in the position that our financial services sector operates autonomously and independently and has not been impacted or affected by what is happening with the COI and the situation in Miami,” she explained during the July 29 briefing. “But we wanted to make sure that we positively convey this message around the world that our financial services industry operates autonomously, that it continues to operate with strong regulations and that it is very involved in the fight against crime. finance on a global scale.

Series ordered

The BVI 360 series was commissioned from Pragmatic Advisory, an independent UK-based strategy and economic research consultancy, Ms Donovan said.

The series focuses on portraying the industry as stable, regulated, fiscally transparent, internationally compliant and a key player in creating global value – a portrayal it says is often not reflected. in the media.

“We do legitimate business, high value business and high value transactions. We do big business and we don’t just do shell companies,” Ms. Donovan said. “We do important business that facilitates globalization as a concept.”

The campaign, she added, also highlights successes, such as Harneys’ work during the pandemic advising a Latin American company on a $1.1 billion acquisition and the more recent freeze by the government of some $400 million in Russian assets under global sanctions enacted following the Ukrainian invasion.

Additionally, the campaign highlights the importance of industry to the VI economy, she said, noting that the territory’s gross domestic product grew 2.2% last year, putting it ahead of the UK. This year, she added, government projections call for GDP growth of 1.8 percent.

This growth “was the result of financial services continuing to operate and do business remotely even during lockdown to operate effectively and efficiently to allow the economy to continue to thrive despite what is happening in the BVI in relation to the pandemic and worldwide. ,” she says.

Acknowledging that the territory remains on the European Union’s gray list and France’s blacklist, the director said the VI’s International Tax Authority is helping to lead efforts to exit both lists.

“Calls for greater tax transparency have led to major global tax initiatives to ensure businesses and individuals pay their fair share of taxes,” she said. “The BVI 360 series seeks to correct the inaccuracy in which BVI is often referred to as a tax haven when it is, in fact, one of the most tax transparent jurisdictions in the world due to all the initiatives global tax agreements he has signed over the past 20 years.

Ms. Donovan added that the VI will undergo no less than eight different reviews in the coming years, some of which will likely determine whether it remains on or off various blacklists.

Public registers

Meanwhile, the House of Assembly has continued to pass legislation, including the BVI Business Companies (Amendment) Act 2022, aimed at keeping the territory in line with global standards, she said. declared.

Next year, at the request of the UK, the VI is also expected to set up a public register of beneficial owners of companies registered here.

“The government is committed to setting up the public beneficial ownership registry in line with global standards,” she said. “So this is still happening, and I think the framework that has been put in place in the amendments is to facilitate the Financial Services Commission and the government and all the authorities who are working to determine what this is going to look like. And so I guess when they get to that point they’ll let us know what it’s going to look like, but that’s consistent with the value of our commitment to seeing through what was passed at that point. [UK] invoice in 2018. »

Comments are closed.