The May 24 Decision March in the British Virgin Islands pulled a massive crowd and march organisers have indicated that, unofficially, the number of protestors was more than 1,000.
The Decision March was a protest to the UK’s controversial amendment to its Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act, which directly affects the BVI and other Overseas Territories.
Though the amendment has already become law, local authorities have indicated that the BVI’s grievances with the UK are effectively two-fold.
Firstly, it is said the amendment directly harms the financial services sector, which accounts for 60 percent of the territory’s annual revenue.
Secondly, the amended law is said to be a breach of the constitutional agreement between the BVI and the UK, which effectively says the BVI has full autonomy over its financial services sector. Bearing that in mind, local authorities said the protest was aimed at sending a message that the BVI will not accept any future demonstrations of “constitutional overreach” from the UK.
The UK law in question is forcing the BVI and other British Overseas Territories to implement what are known as public registers of company beneficial ownership. These registers mean the BVI is required to publicise the names of beneficial owners of offshore companies registered in the territory.
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.
Notably, the UK is imposing the law to tackle financial crimes such as tax evasion. A number of international authorities have claimed the BVI is one of the breeding grounds for financial crimes. The territory has been described as a tax haven which has been associated with financial scandals such as the Panama Papers leak back in 2016.
In the meantime, below are scenes from yesterday’s protest captured by BVI News:
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