The Government of the British Virgin Islands has reiterated its commitment to working toward establishing a publicly accessible register on the beneficial ownership of companies.

In a Financial Services update on September 22, 2020, Premier and Finance Minister Andrew Fahie said the Government is committed to working with the UK Government to implement a register that is “in line with international standards and best practices as they develop globally and, at least, as implemented by EU member states.” Fahie added that his administration “will be informed at all times by global best practice at the time within a timeframe that we consider deliverable.”

Fahie also said that the British Virgin Islands is committed to adhering to global standards on combatting money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism. However, he stressed that there are legitimate concerns that, without the appropriate checks and balances, publicly accessible registers could be abused.

Fahie said he has written to the UK Government to suggest that there are alternative models that would allow access to the various levels of data that would be contained in a register. However, under his proposal, such would contain built-in safeguards such as the use of warrants approved by a court and based on the demonstration of probable cause.

Fahie explained: “These [proposals] pose significantly less risk to the financial services industry while satisfying the objectives of law enforcement to identify and prosecute terrorists, tax evaders, and money launderers, while not disproportionately infringing the rights of the innocent and law abiding. It is the BVI’s submission that such models are worth exploring in the meantime.”

Fahie also said that the British Virgin Islands remain committed to adhering to the exchange of beneficial ownership information under the Exchange of Notes signed with the UK Government in 2016.