The BVI has a mandatory register of beneficial ownership. This primarily applies to BVI companies and certain BVI partnerships, who must ensure the information on the register about their beneficial owners is accurate and up to date. The failure to provide beneficial ownership information, and the provision of false information, each trigger heavy penalties, both on the entity itself, as well as on individuals. Information on the register must be kept confidential, and unlawful disclosure is an offence, though it is made available in prescribed circumstances to specified government agencies such as tax authorities and law enforcement (both domestic and foreign), in line with the BVI's implementation of OECD standards. Unlike the UK's register, the general public does not have access, as is also the case with a great many jurisdictions across the globe. Nevertheless, in a world where we are at times flooded with data, there is a growing expectation of some public access, albeit that there is a fine balance to be struck between privacy and confidentiality on the one hand, and the public interest, on the other. In a statement made on Tuesday, Premier and Minister of Finance of the British Virgin Islands, the Honourable Andrew A. Fahie, announced the Islands' commitment to publicly accessible registers of beneficial ownership. In this, his statement echoes announcements made recently by several other overseas territories and crown dependencies which are primarily international financial centres. The Premier emphasised the BVI's commitment to work with the UK government on an appropriate framework for publicly accessible registers that is in line with the rule of law, and with international standards. As a baseline, the Premier stated that this means from a BVI perspective, standards that are at least as implemented by the EU member states. The format and timeframe are therefore aligned to the EU member states' effective implementation of public registers under the Fifth AML Directive which is - as a practical matter - still some way away.
“...this undertaking is subject to our reservations which include that the format must be in line with international standards and best practices as they develop globally and, at least, as implemented by EU Member States. “In advancing this commitment, we will be informed at all times by global best practice at the time within a timeframe that we consider deliverable.” Honourable Fahie said this commitment is made “with all due regard to the protection of, and proportionate safeguards for, all rights secured under our Territory’s Constitution, and without prejudice to any interpretation of our Constitution expounded by a Court of law, whether in the past, pending, or in the future.”