(Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News)
Premier and Minister of Finance,Hon Andrew Fahie has rejected the Virgin Islands being re-added to France's list of non-cooperative states and territories on tax matters.
In a statement in response to the publication of the list, the Premier said that the good tax cooperation between the British Virgin Islands and France has been overlooked in the French Government's decision to include the jurisdiction.
“As our treaty partner, we continue to cooperate with France on an ongoing basis to meet our treaty obligations. However, there appears to be a misunderstanding and possible miscommunication on certain matters which we are working with our French partners to resolve," Premier Fahie stated.
According to the Premier, for the duration of the relationship with the French, the BVI has diligently followed the processes laid out in the BVI-France Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) and will continue to do so.
"Thus, it is unfortunate that we were included on the French list while working through French requests. I am confident, however, that all outstanding issues will be addressed within the terms of our TIEA and the BVI will be delisted in due course," the Premier outlined.
He stated that the BVI is a jurisdiction that has always adhered to international standards and maintains good cooperation with jurisdictions around the world.
"As a leading international finance centre, our international partners can trust we will continue to do so. We will continue to diligently uphold our obligations and commitment to them, which we take very seriously. I will provide a further update at the appropriate point in time,” Premier Fahie stated.
This is not the first time that the BVI has been blacklisted by France. In August 2013, France named the BVI as a non co-operative jurisdiction because of delays that the BVI was not responding in a timely manner to request for information.
In this most recent case, the Government stated that they first learnt of the listing issue via the announcement by the French Government on December 1, 2019.
According to officials, there was no engagement that the BVI received before December 1 date, in accordance with Article 12 of the Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA), which details the procedures to be followed to ensure effective exchange of information.
Immediately following the announcement, it was pointed out that the BVI’s Competent Authority (CA) contacted the French Competent Authority to determine the root of the issues.
"To date the French Competent Authority has not responded to these communications in line with the TIEA process, despite a letter from the French Minister to the Premier pledging its engagement and cooperation. Furthermore, the French Government has not been able to offer a singular clear basis for the listing of the BVI. In fact, the BVI has now received three lists which all have differences, one which includes requests for information that date back to 2015," the Government outlined.
It was noted that the initial French requests, said to be 230 unanswered by the BVI, were received in May and June 2017, immediately before the destruction caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.
Further, officials stated that in late 2017, the BVI wrote to all jurisdictions where it has Exchange of Information (EOI) relationships - including France - requesting their patience as the Territory recovered from the devastation.
"These particular requests from France pertain to the ‘Panama Papers’ of 2016. The BVI registered agent for all those entities affected by the leak was Mossack Fonseca & Co. (BVI) Ltd., but on 31 May 2018 the firm surrendered its Class 1 Trust Licence and is no longer a registered agent in the BVI and ceased trading," the
Liquidators appointed by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the High Court of Justice (Commercial Division) of the BVI continue to identify, protect and realise any remaining assets for the benefit of the creditors of Mossack Fonseca & Co. (BVI) Ltd.
According to Government, as such, the Competent Authority wrote to all jurisdictions outlining this process and asked if they could wait until the conclusion of the liquidation process before receiving a response. This letter, according to local officials, was sent to France on 15 May 2019 and subsequent reminders have been sent concerning every request for information relating to Mossack Fonseca & Co. (BVI) Ltd., entities.