The United Kingdom is being accused of breaching a constitutional agreement between it and the British Virgin Islands, and local government will be seeking legal advice on the matter.
Premier Smith made that note on Wednesday in response to the UK’s decision to impose a public register that forces the BVI to reveal information on beneficial owners with offshore companies in the territory. The policy also affects other British Overseas Territories.
“We do not feel that this is right constitutionally because when we negotiated the constitution in 2007 – various responsibilities such as financial services, tourism, and other things, … it said that any decision to have any policy which may interfere with those sectors, there would first be a discussion with the BVI on it.”
“And just as the other territories such as Bermuda, such as Cayman; we will be seeking advice from a constitution expert on this matter.”
Human rights violation
But the Premier said the UK’s move is not only a constitutional violation.
He said the UK is also infringing on the privacy of offshore company owners who do business with the BVI and other Overseas Territories.
“I don’t think anybody would like to see their bank accounts being made public and this is a major factor as well,” Premier Smith reasoned.
He added: “There is also the question of human rights. Here, as a territory, we’ve had the most severe natural disasters in a hundred years in the Caribbean and the BVI took the brunt of it. I think it goes against human rights provisions to be able to now go and say ‘we are going to take away the other factor of your economy’. That doesn’t sound right.”
The UK’s decision to impose public registers on the BVI was implemented on May 1.
The territory now has until December 2020 to comply.
Copyright 2021 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.