On Tuesday (May 1) the United Kingdom Parliament approved an amendment to their Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill. The amendment mandates that public registers of beneficial ownership be imposed on the BVI and other British Overseas Territories by the year 2020.
Effectively, beneficial owners are persons who own property rights to a company 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.
This affects the BVI economically because the local financial services industry accounts for roughly 60 percent of the territory’s annual revenue.
Below is a statement from Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie on the UK’s decision to impose public beneficial ownership registers on the BVI:
My people of the Virgin Islands, now that the UK Parliament has voted to impose public beneficial ownership registers upon the BVI and other Overseas Territories, the onus is now on us in the BVI to take full assessment of the repercussions and, most importantly, to determine what opportunities this vote brings.
When the road seems dark and dreary, a God-fearing people must take comfort that God has a plan in store for us. We walk not by sight but by faith.
We can only begin the process of restoration if we can fully determine what we have to battle. We must gather all participants in the financial services industry so that we can gain a full appreciation for the concerns voiced by their customers.
If commitments are made by our leaders to the British government, then we the people of the Virgin Islands must be made aware of these commitments so that suggestions or decisions are not made in a vacuum. The establishment of additional economic pillars is now critical.
No longer can we afford to generalize: The Performing Arts is a sector that must be pursued and the benefits maximized.
Per capita we have the most talented persons in music and the arts, bar none; sports tourism is a sector that must be pursued and the benefits maximized.
Per capita, the BVI has the most talented athletes and their skills must be harnessed; sports fishing and deep-sea fishing are sectors that must be pursued and the benefits maximized.
With a fishing zone of over 200 nautical miles, constantly being fished, legally and illegally, we must maximize the benefits of our waters.
Without a stretch of the imagination, these are only a few of the many suggestions that can be brought forward, which will only be realized if we gather all stakeholders with the common goal of identifying and pursuing these opportunities in which the BVI can benefit.
Despite the current actions by the UK, we must realize that, although challenging times are ahead, once we work together and stay together, keep praying and keep trusting, then the best days of the BVI are not our yesterdays but rather our tomorrows. This should not make us bitter; it must make us better.
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