BVI activist group ponders UN intervention over public registers

British Virgin Islands (BVI) activist group Decision March Committee is considering engaging world leaders in the United Nations about the ongoing public registers saga.

The public register policy is an amendment to the UK’s Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act, which is forcing the BVI and other Overseas Territories to publicise the names of ‘secret’ owners of offshore companies registered in those jurisdictions.

“We will explore taking on our case to the United Nations to ensure that we have proper representation on the international scene, and so that the world will know that the UK is not behaving in ways that are fair and just to its Overseas Territories,” committee member Bishop John Cline told local news outlet BVI News.

He added that the committee will continue to put pressure on the UK to abandon its 2020 public registers mandate. As International Investment reported, the BVI and the Cayman Islands are both intending to counter Westminster’s planned changes to the legislation.

The ongoing controversy has sparked a local protest and an anti-public registers petition signed by over 3,000 residents.

The Minister of State for the Overseas Territories, Tariq Ahmad, said he understood the ‘strength of feeling’ of the BVI.

In a letter addressed to the committee, he said the UK government would have “preferred to work consensually on making registers of beneficial ownership publicly available.” However, Ahmad stated that the will of the UK parliament must be respected.

“We believe the balance of powers in the current constitution is broadly the right one as the UK needs to retain sufficient powers in order to discharge its sovereign responsibilities towards the Overseas Territories,” Ahmad argued.

The UK parliament said that it is open to discussing constitutional reform “if the BVI Premier wishes to put forward any detailed proposals”.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pedro Gonçalves
Pedro Gonçalves is Financial Correspondent at International Investment.

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