In recognition of the ongoing evolving international standards of transparency as promoted by The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Government of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has recently announced two key changes, the first of which relates to registers of directors (documented in recently published draft amendments to the BVI Business Companies Act (the “Act”)) and the second of which relates to the Eligible Introducers regime. These changes illustrate the BVI government’s ongoing commitment to maintaining the BVI’s reputation and competitive standing as an international finance centre whilst continuing to maintain end-users’ valid rights to confidentiality and privacy.
Register of Directors
At present, a BVI company is required to keep an up-to-date copy of its register of directors in the BVI and may elect to file a copy of that register publicly. The draft amendments to the Act provide that a BVI company will also be required to file a copy of its register of directors with the Registry of Corporate Affairs. It is important to note that while competent regulatory and legal authorities will be able to access the information for legitimate purposes, a copy of the register of directors will not be available to the public (unless the company elects for the filing to be public) and is in keeping with, for example, the existing requirements for Cayman Islands exempted companies to file non-public details of their directors with the Cayman Registry.
Eligible Introducer Regime
The existing Eligible Introducer (“EI”) Regime in the BVI is to be modified so that, with effect from 1 January 2016, beneficial ownership information of BVI companies will be required to be held within the BVI to assist with the more expeditious provision of relevant information requested by competent authorities. At present, registered agents in the BVI are entitled to rely on EI letters issued by equivalent regulated and licensed service providers (“Introducers”) to the effect that the Introducers hold all beneficial owner information and provide it to the BVI agents on demand. The changes to the regime mean that, with effect from 1 January 2016, information relating to the beneficial owners’ names, dates of birth, residential addresses and nationalities in respect of all newly incorporated entities will need to be kept in the BVI. BVI registered agents will have a twelve month transitional grace period to comply with the new requirements in respect of any existing companies. It is important to note that Introducers are already required to hold such information and the changes just require them to provide such information to the BVI agents, with no further action required on the part of the end client. The information will be privately held, will not be publicly filed and will only be available to competent regulatory and legal authorities pursuant to legitimate requests for information, as is currently the case.