British Virgin Islands
1. Does British Virgin Islands have a sanctions regime in place?
Yes. As a British overseas territory, the British Virgin Islands implements the international sanctions obligations of the United Kingdom (UK). Typically, this is effected by means of an Order in Council applying the relevant sanctions. Sanctions which are in effect generally apply to:
- any person in the British Virgin Islands
- any person elsewhere who is a British citizen, a British overseas territories citizen, a British subject, a British National (Overseas) or a British protected person who is ordinarily resident in the British Virgin Islands
- any entity incorporated or constituted under the laws of the British Virgin Islands
- any person on board a ship or aircraft that is registered in the British Virgin Islands
A suite of Orders were published on 31 December 2020. These Orders re-align the Bermuda sanctions regime with the new UK sanctions which came into effect following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
2. Does British Virgin Islands implement UN sanctions?
While the UK is a member of the UN, most of the British overseas territories (including the British Virgin Islands) are not. The British Virgin Islands is nevertheless subject to the UK’s foreign policy which supports the UN’s sanctions regime.
3. Does British Virgin Islands implement an autonomous sanctions regime?
Yes. As a British overseas territory, the British Virgin Islands must implement all international sanctions that are extended to it through legislative action by the UK government. The British Virgin Islands also has an autonomous terrorist sanctions regime and has powers over the regulated sector under, among others:
- the Proceeds of Criminal Conduct Act, 1997, as amended
- the Proceeds of Criminal Conduct (Enforcement of External Confiscation Orders) Order, 2017
- the Financial Services Commission Act, 2001, as amended
- the Financial Investigation Agency Act, 2003, as amended
- the Anti-Money Laundering Regulations, 2008, as amended
- the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Code of Practice, 2008, as amended; and
- related legislation such as the Proliferation Financing (Prohibition) Act, 2009
4. What is the nature of the sanctions regime in British Virgin Islands?
The most frequently applied measures are:
- arms embargoes and bans on associated technical assistance, training and financing
- bans on exporting equipment that might be used for internal repression export controls
- asset freezes and financial sanctions on designated individuals and corporate entities
- travel bans on named individuals
- bans on imports of raw materials or goods from the sanctions target
In general terms, it is a criminal offense to:
- deal with funds or economic resources belonging to, owned, held or controlled by a designated person, if it is known, or if you have reasonable cause to suspect, that you are dealing with such funds or economic resources
- make funds available to, or for the benefit of, a designated person if it is known, or if you have reasonable cause to suspect, that you are making funds so available
- make economic funds available to, or for the benefit of, a designated person if it is known, or if you have reasonable cause to suspect, that you are making economic resources so available and, in the case of making economic resources available to a designated person, that the designated person would be likely to exchange the economic resources, or use them in exchange, for funds, goods or services
5. Does British Virgin Islands maintain a list of sanctioned individuals and entities?
The Governor of the British Virgin Islands has a duty to publish a list of designated persons and ensure that the list is kept up to date.
6. Are there any other lists related to sanctions?
Yes. The lists generated by the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation, the Home Office, and the Department for International Trade in the UK are relevant.
7. Does British Virgin Islands have a licensing or authorization system in place?
Yes. Exceptions to sanctions are permitted in certain specified circumstances, but only with the express authorization of the Governor of the British Virgin Islands.
8. What are the consequences for a breach of sanctions in British Virgin Islands?
It is a criminal offense to breach an obligation under a relevant sanctions measure without an appropriate license or authorization. The penalties for breaching sanctions can vary across the various regimes. However, in general terms, any individual found guilty of an offense shall be liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment or both. Entities acting in breach of financial sanctions can also commit a criminal offense and be liable to a fine. Where an offense has been committed by a body corporate, partnership or other form of unincorporated association and is proven to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or neglect on the part of, an officer or partner, as applicable, of the entity, that individual is guilty of an offense (as well as the entity) and may be proceeded against accordingly. The amount of the fine and the length of the term of imprisonment, if any, will depend on the nature of the offense and on which statute or code applies. For example, any individual found guilty of an offense under the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Code of Practice, 2008, as amended, for dealings with a terrorist organization is liable on conviction to a fine of up to $70,000. If the dealings in question are caught by the Proliferation Financing (Prohibition) Act, 2009, the maximum penalty is $40,000, unless the British Virgin Islands Financial Investigation Agency presents a higher penalty to the High Court and the High Court confirms or varies the penalty presented. A person who fails to comply with a requirement imposed by a direction under the Proliferation Financing (Prohibition) Act, 2009 is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine of not more than $50,000 or, on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding $70,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or both.
9. Who are the relevant regulators in British Virgin Islands and what are their contacts?
British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission (“FSC”)
PO Box 418,
The British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission (“FSC”) is an autonomous regulatory authority responsible for the regulation, supervision and inspection of all financial services in and from within the British Virgin Islands. Its responsibilities include policing the perimeter of regulated activity and reducing financial crime (including crossborder white-collar crime).
The Joint Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Advisory Committee
Established under the Proceeds of Criminal Conduct Act, 1997, as amended, is responsible for advising the FSC on initiatives for the prevention and detection of money laundering and terrorist financing activities and may on its own motion provide such other advice as it considers essential to the British Virgin Islands’ efforts to combat such activities effectively. The Committee is comprised of not less than seven and not more than fourteen members who are appointed by the Minister, on the advice of the Attorney General and the Managing Director of the FSC and the latter acts as Chairman of the Committee.
The Virgin Islands General Legal Council
The Virgin Islands General Legal Council was established under the Legal Profession Act 2015, as amended. Its functions include the supervision and regulation of the legal profession in the British Virgin Islands to internationally accepted standards, including ensuring compliance by legal practitioners with anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing standards.
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Managing Partner, Corporate
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Appleby (BVI) Limited
Wickham's Cay I
PO Box 3190
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