Some legislative amendments had been announced in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) to improve the authorities’ access to company beneficial ownership information. The changes to the BVI’s corporate services provider regulatory regime would provide mechanisms to ensure timely access by law enforcement and tax authorities, equivalent to those provided by a central register.
In essence, it appears that BVI registered agents will have to maintain beneficial ownership information in their own office, as opposed to relying on eligible introducers that are typically in another jurisdiction. These regulations will come into force on 1 January 2016. BVI local service providers will then have to start asking their third party introducers to provide them with beneficial ownership and other customer information upon request, without delay. They will have to maintain this information within the BVI for each individual company they represent. Service providers in the BVI will be required to become compliant with these requirements for existing companies within twelve (12) months. Extensions to the deadline may be granted in some cases. Information required to be held will include company beneficial owners’ names, dates of birth, residential addresses and nationalities.
The BVI Business Companies (Amendment) Act 2015 will also introduce a compulsory duty to file a register of directors with the BVI Companies Registry. It also creates an option of filing the company’s register of members. However, the information on both registers will only be made available to ‘competent authorities in the execution of their duties’ – meaning regulators, tax administrators or law enforcement agencies. Other persons will only have access by getting a court order.
This compromise should reassure practitioners and clients that the BVI’s business sector will be safeguarded and its competitive advantage maintained. Amendments were also made to the BVI’s money laundering regulations, setting out restrictions on persons able to act as an intermediary or ‘eligible introducer’, and placing due diligence requirements on BVI financial institutions who rely on these intermediaries to bring in new customers.