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Gov’t hires Farara, int’l lawyers to challenge UK

Gerard Farara

Government has retained Queen’s Counsel and former Acting High Court Judge Gerard Farara to potentially challenge the United Kingdom’s controversial ‘public registers’ amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act.

The local attorney has been retained alongside University of Oxford professor, Dan Sarooshi, as well as Withersworldwide, an international law firm headquartered in London.

“They are confident that the imposition of a public register would raise serious constitutional and human rights issues and would be subject to constitutional challenge,” the Premier told journalists at a media conference on Wednesday, May 30.

“They will continue to be retained until we come to a resolution on this matter,” he added.

Premier Smith said he did not know the legal fee rates government will be paying the territory’s new team of attorneys.

Meanwhile, his announcement comes days after the aforementioned public registers policy became law.

These forcibly-imposed registers mean the BVI and other Overseas Territories are required to publicise the names of beneficial owners of offshore companies registered in those jurisdictions no later than December 2020.

Effectively, beneficial ownership is a legal term where specific property rights belong to a person even though the legal title of the property is in another person’s name.

Publicising the names of these beneficial owners could discourage them from doing business with the BVI as it relates to financial services. The local financial services sector accounts for roughly 60 percent of the territory’s annual revenue.

The UK has imposed the law to tackle financial crimes such as tax evasion and money laundering. A number of international authorities have claimed the BVI is one of the breeding grounds for financial crimes.

BVI banks on legal wrangling to block public register law

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83 Comments

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  1. Risk says:

    What is the cost of this to the public purse? What is the expected outcome since this will become law? Are we expecting it (law) to be amended? Shouldn’t we have hired a reputable international firm with experience in identifying and developing new revenue streams and industries? How will this challenge affect working relationships with the FCO and the EU by default as we will be seen as being a contravention to the legislation if we don’t abide. Where is the BVI Government Risk Assessment conducted on this issue and made public so ALL can peruse the ‘robustness’ and determine if we even have a fighting chance! Scarce and dwindling revenues makes an uphill battle seem insurmountable especially given that we know not what this and future hurricane seasons may bring. What’s the projected cost to fight this seemingly lost battle?

    • Schups says:

      Make what available to the public? Let the Premier and his team do their f——— job!!!

      • Objective Outside Observer says:

        A more important question than what will these lawyers cost, is: What would be the long-term cost to the BVI people, if this law IS NOT challenged? The Premier is trying to protect the interests and wellbeing of the BVI people, so let him do his job!

        • Risk says:

          Firstly to answer ‘Schups’ – yes I said make it available (risk assessment) so that those of us with an iota of brain matter can digest it for ourselves as it affects us all!

          To ‘Objective Outside Observer’ – if BVI Government was a private organization and you were an investor/stakeholder would you not want to know the costs associated with any legal challenges by said company? Blindly following makes not sound or reasonable judgement. Asking objective questions to our elected reps is not preventing any of them from doing their elected jobs! Sounds like you have a vested interest in seeing this law not become a reality in our parts. Maybe Cayman or Bermuda might be more partial to your viewpoints. Call McKeeva and see if he needs your advice!

    • Rubber Duck says:

      Surely Gerry will do this pro bono as a leading BVI citizen.

    • BVI lawyer says:

      People can either agree or disagree with this approach. But:

      (1) If you are contemplating litigation, you certainly don’t share your lawyer’s advice with the general public. That would be like showing your opponent all your cards in a poker game.

      (2) The Premier was elected to lead the country and make decisions like this. Running litigation and international relations is not something that can be done by consensus vote of the entire country.

      At some point you either have to trust your leaders, or replace them with leaders that you do trust. You cannot micro manage them.

      • Huh..? says:

        The opportunity cost is what to be public? No one is asking to see the Premiers hand; what some are asking is what’s the probability that litigation will over-turn this legislation given that it has been on the radar for so long. If the EU states are also following suit and other FS jurisdictions; then at what point do we switch gears and seek alternative revenue streams and pursue those?

        Running a private entity is NOT the same as running a government- ask Trump et.al. Given the considerable amount of lack of accountability, transparency and other domestic issues, I for one am not comfortable with the rhetoric and shambolic display by some officials and clergy. But hey that’s their Democratic right and so too it is mine to voice a different opinion. Feel free to disagree and ‘roast’ anyone who’s views differ from those legal/FS ‘experts’ and call me/others the proverbial ‘crab in a barrel’ for such!

        • BVI lawyer says:

          There is an opportunity cost with all public spending. But – rightly or wrongly – the Premier believes that a revenue stream worth $200 million a year to the BVI Government is under threat.

          In the circumstances I think most people would agree it would be prudent to spend a tiny fraction of that sum exploring the basis for a legal challenge.

          Choosing not to spending that money, and living in ignorance of whether there are valid grounds for a legal challenge or not, would seem unwise given the amounts potentially at risk.

          It is interesting to note that the Premier is by no means alone. Most of the other BOTs are also taking high level legal advice on this.

    • CuriousCaymanian says:

      Did Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Minister for FCO/OTs just overflew and evidently ignored the BVI on his week-long visit to the Caribbean OTs? You people need to calm down and take your pills. Take a page from Cayman.

    • Theo says:

      The BVI govt knew this legislation was coming and choose to act after the fact. Stick your head in the sand and imagine that reality isn’t happening regardless of what you believe.

      All of this will be a moot point if floods or a god forbid a hurricane occurs again.

      Unfortunately it looks like the BVI is just going to dwindle to nothing and how it got there and what could have been done will have been forgotten.

      Those with means have already secured their parachutes for when things go completely downhill.

    • Legal says:

      It is not a lost battle until it’s decided in a court of law. What the BVI is going is within its right to so do. The UK knew that it’s decision was likely to be challenged on constitutional grounds. I for one will be closely monitoring this to see what the outcome will be. This is no doubt create an important precedent regardless.

    • Waffle says:

      Risk, there is nothing positive I can say about you and your crazy waffling questions. I hope you are not in a position to make any meaningful decisions for this territory.

  2. Take it please says:

    I want the UK to take more control of this place.the BVI government have no idea what they doing. So please UK take it back.

    • L says:

      You don’t know what you’re asking for. A UK takeover is something we would all regret. If you don’t like our current leaders, vote them out. stop voting just to support a party. Vote with sense.

      • Bystander says:

        Most residents get to pay taxes and fees but don’t get to vote.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hey “L”. Even though many of us are historically and politically ignorant, be not fooled that is a local who wrote that. The individual is more than likely a Brit.

        Indeed, there is an effort to retake paradise primarily because of its economic worth.

        However, they fail to recognize the following: When an occupant occupies a piece of land for an extended amount of years, that land becomes his/hers.

        Since the 1800’s our ancestors were the sole occupants of these lands. Therefore, by the above fact, these lands now belongs to the off spring of those ancestors who are us.

        These sort of issues are for the more knowledgeable and experienced in such matters, however, such as lawyers to battle with.

        Our folk worked for centuries and never received a salary. The Brits, Americans and many other EU nations became rich because of our labor and invented the current international banking and industrial systems we see today, but we never received a penny/cent/pence.

        All we received was horror, brutality and death.
        Now they want to come and take back?
        Let’s hope all our people are prepared to ignite revolution and die if need be to keep what legitimately ours.

        • CW says:

          Do some basic math:

          200 mil from BVI to UK annually

          UK GDP is 2 Trillion annually

          BVI sends UK .2% of it’s GDP annually

          BVI contributes virtually nothing to the UK economy and they could care less about “retaking Paradise for exonomic worth”. In fact that would save them a boatload of administrative fees. The UK loses money supporting the BVI. This is numbers. Not opinion.

          • wtf says:

            BVI doesn’t give 200m to UK annually.

            The 200m being talked about is what the BVI uses to pay its civil servants, run the hospital, employ police etc.

            The BVI doesn’t give any money in tribute to the UK government. The UK government has not given BVI grant aid.

          • @ WTF says:

            I don’t think you understand the post, read again. The person is saying why would the UK take over BVI for $200 mil annually (financial services revenue), when the UK’s GDP is 2 Trillion.

          • Onething says:

            Its only £32 million pounds a year it cost the uk to defend the ots.

        • Gonzo the Magician says:

          ‘Indeed, there is an effort to retake paradise primarily because of its economic worth.’.

          Wow!! Do you see that every year due to climate change and population explosion that resources are dwindling worldwide? The costs associated with assisting the BVi in the future will exponentially rise. More adverse weather phenomena whether natural or manufactured (HARRP) will directly have a negative insurance risk profile for the BVi and rise premiums long-term (if they haven’t done so already)! So do you really think the UK or even the US or China would want that liability on their books every year given what recently transpired?

          Get real….stop drinking the 🍄 ☕️

          • @Gonzo says:

            We have drunk the kool-aid of horror, economic and human disenfranchisement.

            Therefore, we thoroughly understand and do not underestimate the psychology, ambitions and human nature of the European male.

            We have lived his terror and horror. We know how bad that dog bites.

            So do not try to lull us into a a non-realistic notion as was espoused.

          • Rubber Duck says:

            @gonzo. Quit with the racist drivel. The European Male did not invent slavery. It was everywhere for eons. Including Africa.

            But it was certainly the European male and more particularly the British male by means of the Royal Navy who ended it.

          • Gonzo the Magician says:

            @ Rubber Duck – huh? Where did I say anything racist? Take your humb out your eye and maybe you can read and comprehend better!! Had your Aricept meds?? Kindly re-read my statement above.

    • duck1951 says:

      I believe that they are doing the right thing .
      This new rule will strangle the economies of not only BVI, but also Turks and Caicos, Bermuda and Cayman Islands .this is their biggest breadwinner.

    • Dis Mek Sense! says:

      I have been saying the same thing ever since.

      The UK needs to impose direct rule and throw these c—– f— out and jail those who have been stealing from us.

      I guess that will be all of them.

      • Keen Observant says:

        Your appeal for direct rule maybe granted, but it will also come with revolution, push back and more.

        We will never, never become second class humans/citizens again! never, Never!

        • L says:

          I spent the last couple days doing some research on our history. I do not plan on going back there. It will be like 1853 all over. That was the year of the Cattle Tax Riot. The cattle tax was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, and the people rioted. All the white people, except the president, left the colony.

          Direct rule is straight up Colonialism.

    • @Take it please says:

      You will say that until they do and then UK nationals would no longer need work permits to work or Belonger status to purchase land, businesses etc. Keep praying for your former slave owners to take back over to make things better, keep it up.

      • Rubber Duck says:

        And you would pay U.K. style taxes. So all the Brits would leave for Cayman, Turks etc anyway. And take lots of the territory’s Money with them

      • Brad Boynes says:

        You do not need Belonger status to purchase land in the Virgin Islands. Where you get that twisted misinformed information from? Write facts not your self serving words.Get freakin real.

        • M Schumacher says:

          no, but you need permission from Cabinet, the Attorney General, Town and Country Planning and the Governor to buy land as a non-BVIslander. Oh yes, and don’t forget you pay stamp duty at 12% instead of 4% which locals pay, You also need permission to amend your Land Holding License to develop your site (build an extension, build additional building) or indeed to rent it out. Yes you can buy here but it isn’t in any sense an even playing field for foreigners here. Write facts etc get freakin real etc

    • Idea says:

      It dose’nt need a u.k take over. Why not change the bvi status to that like isle of man or channel islands or a relationship like the dutch caribbean?

    • Keen Observant says:

      Your appeal for direct rule maybe granted, but it will also come with revolution, push back and more.

      We will never, never become second class humans/citizens again! never, Never!

    • Anonymous says:

      You cannot take what is not yours! We have live here for at a century and a half. This is now legally ours

    • Anonymous says:

      UK probably won’t even want this place under the current economic climate. Would require us to be of military strategic importance before them or the US would care. Probably and realistically more likely to get China or Russia to handle our affairs in exchange for continued right to handle global finance.

  3. nick says:

    we would like to know how much money will be spend to this lawers.our taxpayer money.

  4. Shorty says:

    I am not against the Government’s action to pursue legal ramifications to the imposed bill. However, I am curious what is the purpose of the Attorney General and his chambers. Majority of cases involving government they usually hire private lawyers and firms even if it is a case locally. What really is the purpose of the Attorney General and the numerous lawyers in those chambers?

    • Rubber Duck says:

      Jobs for the relatives. Next question

    • Come on... says:

      This is way above the Attorney General’s pay grade, let’s stop the f&^%ry now as if we don’t know this. If the AG gets entangled with this complex situation how will he be able to deal with his day to day? Think!

  5. bvi lawyer says:

    odd line-up for a task like this. Gerry is good but the stakes are massive here and we should use the absolute best. Who have the Caymanians gone for? A local or English QC?

    • Action says:

      If you read it you will see thar Gerry working alongside Prof Dan Sarooshi QC expert in this field. Looks as if govt taking this seriously and going to the top. They need to spend $ on this to keep $$$$ coming in long term.

  6. Interested says:

    These fools who are asking for a UK takeover do not have the faintest idea what they are asking for,I hope they are not indigenous BVISLANDERS,because when the hammer begins to fall,the expatriates can go home.Whete are we going to run to,People must think before they speak.Ask Turks and Caicos about a U.K. takeover if you don’t believe me.

  7. No RSVP says:

    It doesn’t look like it will be much of a challenge. It looks like the UK giving BVI the done. Conference calls and meetings with OTs but BVI name doesn’t appear.

    • Good Observation says:

      I wonder why the U.K. MP, Lord A….. is traveling to the Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Anguilla and not coming here. Is it because we spoke out of turn and used the ‘I’ word and they have already ditched us?

  8. well well says:

    i guess he will be to busy to run for election after all. well well done guys, if you cant beat um, buy um

  9. bvi lawyer says:

    actually, the Oxford Don is also a silk with Essex Court and looks like he is quite competent having recently defeated the government on the Gina Miller Brexit case.

    • @ bvi lawyer says:

      Actually the very recent QC (year of silk 2018, year of call 2005) was only a part of the team which defeated the UK Govt representing Gina Miller in the Brexit case (the most junior of the whole team of 5, I might add). The Brexit case was led by Lord Pannick who is revered as a giant among constitutional barristers (or maybe even barristers in the UK generally). Lord Pannick who was called in 1979 and silk since 1992 has been retained by the Cayman Islands to lead their litigation team. Here’s to hoping that the Professor is the high flyer that his resume seems to indicate. Also, Withers (not known for their constitutional law expertise). Mr. Farara QC is a welcome addition to the team. I wish the team well and pray the Lord’s guidance over them.

      • bvi lawyer says:

        thanks for the clarification, i guess if i were a lawyer i would have known that or done some research!

        So is this a cunning plan to bring together the Gina Miller dream team with BVI as the junior to Cayman?

  10. Solutions? says:

    I think that the ots should abolish working permits for other ots and offer freedom of movement between each other. And adopt the netherlands form of political affliation with the u.k. You can become independant countries within the u.k such as st.maartin and curacao relationship is with Holland. Or is an isle of man or channel islands relationship better if you dont want them to legislate for you. Form a caribbean ot free movement policy.

  11. German Sheppard says:

    It’s not the done, it’s a set up for direct rule.

    They saying to BVI dig your own grave for us to buddy you in it.

    It’s coming….

  12. driver says:

    This “open registry” mandate suppose to affect ALL Overseas Territories;
    Would it not have made more sense if BVI Government had joined with the other OT”s and present a Caribbean case to the UK Government as a Stronger Forum

  13. CW says:

    BVI is on the wrong side of history. This banking system is changing AROUND THE WORLD but BVI tries to be the only one to not change? Look up the word SANCTIONS. that is what the imf and other countries will place on BVI for not being transparent. You lose the business faster from that than anything else. BVI has a chance to lead the world banking community in this transition but instead is focused on maintaining the old ways. Never once in history has keeping the old ways ever been a long term solution. Bury your heads in the sand and perish or get with the times. The UK doesn’t care if you don’t like it, they have way bigger problems and BVI only send .2% of their GDP anyway. Do you really think the BVI contributes on any meaningful way to the UK at large? This is global economics at play and BVI thinks marching in the streets literally 4000 miles away from the people who decide makes a difference. Open your eyes and lead BVI! Why wait for somebody else and then complain you don’t like the outcome?

    • Albion says:

      I think you have it the wrong way around. At the moment only one country (out of 205) has public registers of beneficial ownership, and that is the UK. The UK wants to force the BOTs to do this despite the fact that literally no other country in the entire world does this, and despite the fact the the UK system has repeatedly been shown to be ineffective and fatally flawed.

      http://uk.businessinsider.com/130000-uk-companies-fail-to-sign-up-to-people-with-significant-control-register-2017-10

      https://www.ft.com/content/9561cc74-fb2b-11e5-b3f6-11d5706b613b

      https://www.carson-mcdowell.com/news-and-events/insights/data-analysis-of-the-psc-register-early-insights-and-flaws

      • CW says:

        This change is happening. If BVI was first they could set the new trend by example. BVI will instead cry and walk around in the streets of road town wondering why the world isn’t fair and they are once again late to the party. Of course only one country has made the transition- all this legislation just got introduced into multiple countries that each pass laws using different rules. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that the house is on fire in the BVI, and the fire just started. You can either run outside and start bucketing water, or you can hide from the fire in your closet. Sure, the closet is closer, easier, and you won’t see the fire. But of course the whole house will burn down around you and in the end you will still see the fire, but not have time to react. This is BVI. Hiding from the inevitable and creating an unnecessary emergency for the entire country. This should be BVI opportunity to improve and showcase the sector that supports 60% of the economy, not threaten UK with nonsense.

    • Tutor says:

      I was wondering when a level headed person was going to bring the word “sanctions” into the conversation. The BVI must understand that it has no seat at the big boys table….arrogance has dethroned greater nations!

  14. Well says:

    Jerry too has to eat.

  15. Sam the man says:

    what a complete waste of a massive amount of tax payers money these lawyers don’t come cheap and silks often earn what you and I earn in a week for a few hours time!, they often charge for the minute also! no doubt there will be a sizable kick back also so it doesn’t matter to the NDP it will fail…just like all the botched projects they do – they just do it again and cream off some more facilitation fees! good well built roads last for many years ours cost what a fantastic road should cost and last a few months if we are lucky so it can be redone and yet more opportunity for the brown envelopes….

    • @ Sam the ass says:

      Always negative, ALWAYS! Do you have anything worth salt to bring to the table? Any solutions? Any common sense? It must be hard to be a walking negative!

      • Sam the man says:

        Easy actually I’m not hoodwinked by many and follow blind our Government hasn’t helped this situation with their failure to issue audited annual accounts – from what I’ve heard the UK have just had enough off the avoidance of transparency and have imposed this legislation upon us. It’s futile to oppose it. But there is I believe some extremely happy lawyers a d ministers that will now make a significant sum!

  16. Forrest Gump says:

    Opinions are like a#%h073$ – everyone has one!!! Interesting to see if this legal ‘dream-team’ can overturn what the UK houses have passed. Lawyers will make some good money and get loads of priceless free press.

  17. Walter Bagehot says:

    The name of the firm these people work for is Mishcon De Reya. Among other things they handled Princess Diana’s Divorce and David Irving versus Penguin Books which the
    the recent film Denial was based on. They almost single-handedly helped to slow down the recent witch hunt of an alleged sexual offenders in the U.K. by forcing a trial to court where in fact the Crown had no evidence. Plus the Gina Miller case. They are often in BVI working on very large international cases.

    Hard to imagine we could be in better hands.

    • A man says:

      Sorry, please could you clarify. Are you saying that Mishcon not Withers have been instructed?

    • Growup says:

      Good or bad hands. Its other peoples hands. Other interest. Might get some concessions but do not postpone the inevitable. Take the opportunity and prepare. This is not UK alone. EU driven and very complex. And the US will soon have their say. Watch.

    • What a farce says:

      The No Direction Party lives up to its name ! clueless with appointing a dream lawyer team as usual – v funny Walter Bagehot!!! best post in a while

  18. Wendy says:

    My prayer wishes and positive vibes for this blessed land of plenty blessings.
    Good and spiritual guidance to our Government.
    The spiritual guides and the spirits of our ancestors are in full force.
    All is well and all will end well for the best interest of the VI and it’s people.

    I so wish that the enemies now so evident on our shores would be struck down and disintegrate, Have mercy on this sinful wish. I am not perfect.

  19. THE TRUTH says:

    Kudos to BVI News, one can actually learn something by reading your blogs. Anyway “Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the fight of the ages…in the right corner and wearing red green and gold is BVI and in the left corner and wearing red white and blue is the undefeated champion the UK….now fellas you know the rules no punches below the belt when I say break..wait a minute Lord Jacob Rothschild has just entered the arena…Ladies and gentlemen he’s having words with the referee…I do believe his name is Jeffrey…Lord have mercy pon we…”

  20. Gerry for Premier! says:

    That is all.

  21. Level says:

    Maybe we need new leadership. The leader of the country retain several law firms and cannot tell the people what it will cost the public purse.. The people need transpearancy and accountability. Something seems to be out of order.

  22. Max says:

    The BVI is a drop in the bucket compared to London where the dirty money is actually sitting in bank accounts owned by Russians which purchased properties in the UK with the aid of UK conveyance lawyers and estate agents so the UK is benefitting a lot more from the so called financial crimes than the BVI.

  23. Youth for tomorrow says:

    It’s a loosing case..and million of dollers down the drain for paying lawyer and the bvi already broke.UK is the parent country for OTs…you go by the rules or you are off your own..government are hiding alot of wrong doing in the dark ..they need to come to light.can someone present a list or documents from social security of the amount of money that was barrow and how much is paid back..

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