The Virgin Islands and other Overseas Territories are exhaling deeply now that the United Kingdom (UK) Government has officially extended the deadline for public registers of beneficial ownership from 2020 to 2023. However, the UK Government has announced that it will still enforce the 2018 legislature via an Order in Council.
The situation of public registers for beneficial ownership is deemed a matter of concern for the Territory, as it is believed that such a move will affect the Territory’s financial services industry, which is a major economic contributor.
Last year, the announcement that the United Kingdom Parliament was urging Overseas Territories such as the BVI to implement Public Registers of Beneficial Ownership by December 2020, or have the registers implemented via an Order in Council, caused great concern in the Territory. The matter was even subject to a large public protest, and saw the Government making legal representation, citing constitutional overreach.
Now that the deadline has been extended, the UK Government announced in a recent disclosure on the matter that the Foreign Secretary will be working in conjunction with the elected governments of the Overseas Territories to lay out a clear and detailed timetable for the publication of registers of beneficial ownership in each jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, the UK Government has stressed that it is committed to complying with the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, which makes provisions regarding the introduction of publicly accessible registers of company beneficial ownership in all OTs. Therefore, it was noted that the matter will still be subjected to an Order in Council.
“The Government will prepare an Order in Council by the end of December 2020, with the Territories expected to have fully functioning publicly accessible registers as soon as possible, and no later than the end of 2023. We are scoping the assistance the OTs will require, and will be holding technical workshops and providing OTs with assistance over the coming months. This will support the OTs in developing publicly accessible registers,” the UK Government stated.
Additionally, it was disclosed that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is not currently in a position to lay out detailed timetables for each Territory. Therefore it was explained that the timetable for implementing registers in each OT will differ depending on its fiscal position and business model.