Amid a number of international financial reports that have accused the BVI’s financial services industry of aiding money launderers in recent times, the Cabinet is moving to pass new laws to tackle tax evasion and money laundering.
The EU, the UK and other international financial lobbies have been pressuring the BVI to improve its financial laws and make its systems more transparent to prevent the world’s richest from hiding money here.
At Cabinet’s February 3 meeting, officials considered the Criminal Justice (International Cooperation) (Amendment) Act 2021 which facilitates the BVI’s cooperation with other countries in criminal proceedings and investigations.
Cabinet said the Bill will be introduced for its first reading in the House of Assembly at the next convenient sitting.
Giving the FIA teeth against money laundering
Cabinet also considered and approved the Proliferation Financing (Prohibition) Act 2021, which gives powers to the Financial Investigation Agency to take action against persons and activities that may be related to terrorist financing and money laundering.
The Proliferation Financing (Prohibition) Act 2021 seeks to replace the Proliferation Financing (Prohibition) Act, 2009 and will be introduced in the House of Assembly for its first reading at the next convenient sitting.
The Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2021 is yet another piece of legislation that was considered and approved by the Cabinet. According to a post-Cabinet statement from its February 3 meeting, this bill is seeking to “criminalise tax crimes as a predicate offence for money laundering”.
Additionally, Cabinet reviewed the Counter-Terrorism Act, 2021, which is the creation of the territory’s domestic legislation regarding terrorist-related matters.
According to Cabinet, this law is also a means of strengthening the current counter-terrorism legislative regime in a manner that satisfies the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force standards for combating terrorist financing. This Bill will also be introduced for its first reading at the next convenient sitting of the House of Assembly.
These laws are being reviewed by Cabinet just weeks after the Tax Justice Network (TJN) revealed that the BVI’s ranking for financial secrecy has worsened in the last two years.
The Financial Secrecy Index 2020 shows that out of 133 countries listed, the BVI placed ninth — meaning the country is one of the top ten tax havens of the world.
Less than a year ago, the BVI was also named in the Fincen Files scandal.
The scandal involves more than 2,500 leaked documents that show how some of the world’s largest banks have allowed criminals to hide ‘dirty money’ in countries like the BVI and the Cayman Islands.
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