The Governor’s Office has stated that it will be working with personnel in the BVI and the United Kingdom to determine how the BVI may be affected by this week’s ruling handed down by the European Union Court.
For some years now, the EU has been forcing many countries to publicise the names of the persons who own companies in their local financial services industries. It is believed that this will reduce the number of wealthy people who hide their wealth in other jurisdictions.
However, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), this week ruled that it is unlawful for its member countries to make registers of beneficial ownership for companies fully accessible to the public. The court said making these names public would be “invalid” and would constitute a breach of people’s fundamental human rights.
In light of the ruling, BVI News asked the Governor’s Office whether the new ruling will affect the BVI in any way. Our news centre was informed that the Governor’s Office still believes the BVI should work towards creating publicly accessible company registers as it works to determine the impact the new court ruling could have on the territory.
“The Governor’s Office will work with colleagues both in the territory and the UK to understand the implications of the recent judgement by the ECJ and will continue to support work towards publicly accessible registers of beneficial ownership,” a spokesperson from the Governor’s Office said.
Beneficial owners are persons who enjoy the benefits of ownership in a company even though the title of the company is in another person’s name. Making the registers public would reveal the names of many persons who have assets in other jurisdictions but are not being taxed by their home countries.
However the CJEU said the general public’s access to information on beneficial ownership constitutes a serious interference with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data, enshrined in Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter, respectively.
The Court also found that the information disclosed in the register enables a potentially unlimited number of persons to find out about the material and financial situation of a beneficial owner.
While the BVI is among a group of Overseas Countries and Territories that cooperate with the EU, it is unclear how this ruling is likely to impact the BVI in the future given that it has had its own share of challenges with resisting the implementation of a public register.
The government previously indicated that it remains committed to collaborating with the United Kingdom government to create publicly accessible registers of beneficial ownership for companies in the territory.
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