The issue of public registers of beneficial ownership will be on the agenda for officials during the ongoing Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) Meeting in the United Kingdom (UK), Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley has disclosed.
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.
Premier Wheatley recently signalled his intention to discuss the issue with UK officials, and noted at the time that he would be accompanied by Deputy Premier and Minister for Financial Services Lorna Smith, OBE.
According to the Premier, his contingent will reiterate that the Virgin Islands is a jurisdiction that respects fundamental human rights, including the rights to privacy and data protection.
Both of these issues were highlighted by the European Court of Justice in a ruling earlier this year on public registers, the Premier said.
“The position of the Court is that the implementation of public registers should not violate individuals’ right to privacy and data protection,” the Premier stated. “Violation of these fundamental human rights can lead to unwanted legal challenges.”
The Premier noted that the BVI takes this issue very seriously and commented that, along with the Deputy Premier, he intends to discuss the issue further with UK Overseas Territories (OT) Minister David Rutley.
“Notably, as a jurisdiction, the Virgin Islands currently exchanges beneficial ownership information seamlessly with UK law enforcement agencies via the Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System (BOSSS),” the Premier explained.
He described BOSS as a model system for this purpose and stated that the system has proven highly effective.
“We have been able to assist the UK in their investigations using the system, and will continue to be a good international partner in combatting financial crime,” he added.
Back in 2019, the UK government granted its Overseas Territories a reprieve and allowed the BVI to go without implementing the bedevilling public registers of company beneficial ownership until 2023.
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