British Virgin Islands

Global sanctions guide

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  1. Does the 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 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; and
  • any body incorporated or constituted under the laws of the British Virgin Islands.
  1. Does the British Virgin Islands implement UN sanctions? 

Though the UK is an EU member state and a member of the UN, the British Overseas Territories (excluding Gibraltar) are not. The British Virgin Islands is nevertheless subject to the UK’s foreign policy which implements the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and supports the UN’s sanctions regime. As such, UN and EU sanctions regimes have been substantially implemented and are observed in the British Virgin Islands.

  1. Does the British Virgin Islands implement an autonomous sanctions regime? 

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.

As well as following the sanctions put in place by the UN and EU, the British Virgin Islands has an autonomous terrorist sanctions regime and has powers over the regulated sector under:

  • the Proceeds of Criminal Conduct Act 1997 (as amended);
  • the Proceeds of Criminal Conduct (Designated Countries and Territories) Order 1999;
  • the Financial Services Commission Act 2001 (as amended);
  • the Financial Investigation Agency Act 2003 (as amended);
  • the Anti-Money Laundering Regulations 2008;
  • the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Code of Practice 2008 (as amended); and
  • related legislation such as the Proliferation Financing (Prohibition) Act 2009.
  1. What is the nature of the sanctions regime in the British Virgin Islands? 

The most frequently applied measures are:

  • arms embargoes;
  • 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; and
  • bans on imports of raw materials or goods from the sanctions target.

In general terms, it is a criminal offence 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.
  1. Does the British Virgin Islands maintain a list of sanctioned individuals and entities? 

No express obligation is imposed under the laws of the British Virgin Islands for any authority in the British Virgin Islands to maintain a list, but the Governor of the British Virgin Islands would be aware of the lists referred to in the next paragraph.

  1. Are there any other lists related to sanctions? 

Yes. The lists generated by HM Treasury, which includes the Home Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in the UK are relevant.

  1. Does the British Virgin Islands have a licensing or authorisation system in place? 

Yes. Exceptions to sanctions are permitted in certain specified circumstances, but only with the express authorisation of the Governor of the British Virgin Islands.

  1. What are the consequences for a breach of sanctions in the British Virgin Islands? 

It is a criminal offence to breach a financial sanction without an appropriate licence or authorisation. The penalties for breaching sanctions can vary across the various regimes, however, in general terms, any individual found guilty of an offence shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment and/or a fine.

Corporate entities acting in breach of financial sanctions can also commit a criminal offence and be liable to a fine. Where an offence has been committed by a corporate body and is proven to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or neglect on the part of, a director, manager, secretary or similar officer of the corporate body, or any individual who was purporting to act in any such capacity, that individual, as well as the corporate body, is guilty of an offence and can be imprisoned or fined.

The amount of the fine and the length of the term of imprisonment, if any, will depend on the nature of the offence and on which statue or code applies. For example, any individual found guilty of an offence under the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Code of Practice 2008 (as amended) for dealings with a terrorist organisation 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 Act 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 and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years.

  1. Who are the relevant regulators in the British Virgin Islands and what are their contact details?

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 cross-border white-collar crime).

Pasea Estate
PO Box 418
Road Town
Tortola, VG 1110
British Virgin Islands

T: (+1) 284 494 1324
F: (+1) 284 494 5016
www.bvifsc.vg

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.

E: info@bvinra.org
www.bvinra.org/Who-We-Are/JALTFAC

The British Virgin Islands Financial Investigation Agency (“FIA”) is an autonomous law enforcement agency, generally responsible for the investigation of money laundering and terrorist financing activities and other serious financial crimes taking place in or from within the British Virgin Islands. Its responsibilities include processing requests for legal assistance from authorities in foreign jurisdictions as well as receiving and investigating all disclosure of information required to be made under relevant financial services legislation (including suspicious activity reports and disclosure from foreign authorities).

P.O. Box 4090
Road Town
Tortola, VG1110
British Virgin Islands

T: (+1) 284 494 1335
F: (+1) 284 494 1435
E: fia@bvifia.org
www.bvifia.org

The FIA is guided by a Board comprised of the Deputy Governor (as Chairman), the Attorney General, the Financial Secretary, the Commissioner of Police, the Commissioner of Customs, the Managing Director of the FSC and the Director of the FIA.  The Board is essentially responsible for forming or setting the policy of the FIA. A Steering Committee (comprised of the Attorney General, the Managing Director of the FSC and the Director of the FIA) is responsible for dealing with and issuing directives in respect of all suspicious activity reports.

Contributor law firm

Mark Holligon, Appleby, 33-37 Athol Street, Douglas, IM1 1LB

T: (+44) 1624 647 691
F: (+44) 1624 620 992
MHolligon@applebyglobal.com
http://www.applebyglobal.com/