Friday, April 28, 2006

BVI FSC issued the first Advisory Warning for 2006

From time to time British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission issues advisory warning for the general publics to protect them from scams, misunderstandings or wrongdoings. This year’s first FSC Advisory Warning is issued on Curam Investment Management Limited and states that this company is not licensed by the Financial Services Commission to provide management and/or administrative services to mutual funds under the Mutual Funds Act, 1996 (as amended).

As far as the BVI Financial Services Commission is charged with the supervision and licensing of all regulated activities (like the provision of management and administrative services carried on in or from within the BVI), it is the highest authority and source of licensing information in the British Virgin Islands.

As you may know, Curam Investment Management Ltd was licenced to provide management and administrative services under the Mutual Funds Act, 1996, and this licence was cancelled on the 15th of October, 2003. As a result, according to the Mutual Funds Act, 1996 amendments, Curam Investment Management Ltd is no longer regulated under this act.

Therefore, Robert A. Mathavious, Managing Director/CEO of the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission informed public that transactions should not be conducted with Curam Investment Management Ltd as far as it is not licensed to carry on business in or from throughout the BVI.

Some time ago it appeared both on public and private information channels that Curam Investment Management Ltd still provides the management and/or administrative services to mutual funds under the BVI Mutual Funds Act, 1996. The British Virgin Islands Financial Service Commission took seriously the potential threat that offshore investors could suffer as a result of misleading or erroneous information and made the public announcement to protect the offshore investors as well as the reputation of the BVI jurisdiction itself.

Today, on the web you can find the website of a company called that Curam Investment Management Ltd with address in Switzerland, Zug. There is almost no public information on the site, just login for existing offshore investors and registration form which is not functional. Investment news and contact form also don’t work. The domain names are registered both in com and Swiss zone (ch).
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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Law Enforcement Meeting To Fight Crime

The heads of Her Majesty’s Customs, the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) and the Immigration Department are participating in an international law enforcement conference, which is held in Anguilla this week. The conference runs from April 24 to April 28. It is held each year in order to facilitate discussion on law enforcement matters for United Kingdom Caribbean Overseas Territories. The theme of this year conference is Ensuring Capacity, Capability and Sustainability in the Delivery of Effective Law Enforcement Services.

The conference will hold discussions on several issues related to crime fighting in the UK Overseas Territories, including crime prevention, regional and international cooperation to fight crime, drug trafficking threats, witness protection, immigration and customs enforcement as well as recruitment and retention of law enforcement personnel.

From BVI officials information it comes out that the efforts will be mostly directed towards "local" things like illegal immigration to the BVI, British Virgin Islands Customs Department improvement, reducing "local" crime or crime on the borders. Offshore business and offshore banking that could be used for international crime seems less important in this context. The conference will be attended by the representatives of BVI Financial Services Commission (FSC) this fact itself means at least "something". The function of BVI FSC includes also: "Policing the perimeter of regulated activities and instigating and pursuing enforcement actions against any individual or business found in violation of BVI financial services laws" and "Monitoring and detecting financial crime, as well as assisting in the prosecution of such crime".

BVI Police Commissioner Mr. Reynell Fraser suggested that the conference will increase the recent intensified efforts aimed at reducing crime in the BVI. He also stated that the information shared at the conference will help law enforcement agencies in the BVI to identify and adopt international best practices in order to fight crime. So, the BVI is going to gain some considerable benefits from the conference, which will by all means strengthen the law enforcement strategies in the BVI.

Mr. Wade Smith, the British Virgin Islands Customs Department official said Government is looking for modernised law enforcement and information sharing capabilities. He said Her Majesty’s Customs indicates the following top priorities - integrity, accountability and transparency.

Mr. Malvern Brathwaite, Acting Chief Immigration Officer states that the region faces a daunting task in illegal immigration matters. According to him, Government recognises that illegal immigration can become a serious threat to the economic and social welfare of the British Virgin Islands. However, Government is doing its best to ensure that this will not happen.

Law enforcement officials from Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands are also attending the conference. Two years ago - in March 2004, the BVI hosted the event.
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

BVI Chief Minister at UK-Caribbean Forum this week

Chief Minister Honourable Dr. D. Orlando Smith - the Head of BVI Government - is one of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders to attend the 5th United Kingdom-Caribbean Forum in Barbados.

Dr. D. Orlando Smith will take part in discussions on international developments and their implications aimed at achieving both medium and long-term development in the Caribbean. The UK-CARICOM Security Cooperation Agreement that provides a plan of action, involves border security, training of security and law enforcement officials, maritime cooperation as well as the establishment of a regional information and intelligence-sharing network will also be on the agenda at these discussions. The forum will also focus on issues such as private sector tourism, trade, energy, disaster preparedness, HIV-AIDS as well as financial services, which is very topical for such offshore country as the British Virgin Islands.

The BVI Chief Minister is going to use the opportunity to raise issues of concerning how the region could forge a better working relationship with the UK.The forum is held every two years. This one will be co-chaired by the UK’s Foreign Secretary Mr. Jack Straw and Foreign Minister of Grenada Mr. Elvin Nimrod, who is incoming Chairman of the CARICOM Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR).

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was established in 1972, when Commonwealth Caribbean leaders at the Seventh Heads of Government Conference decided to transform the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) into a Common Market. The signing of the Treaty establishing CARICOM was one of the key moments in the history of the Commonwealth Caribbean. CARICOM aims at improving standards of living and work, the full employment of labour, accelerated and sustained economic development, economic relations and expansion of trade with third States, increasing international competitiveness as well as production and productivity.

Since its establishment, CARICOM has substancially expanded. Now it consists of 15 member states (Antigua and Barbud, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago) and 5 associate members (Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands). The British Virgin Islands (BVI) became a CARICOM Associate Member on the 2nd of July 1991.
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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Threat to farming in East Anglia

East Anglia is one of England's most productive and intensively farmed regions but it may not be producing arable crops in quantity for much longer if a report from the rural advisory service ADAS is to be believed.

Farming is the most important diffuse source of water pollution in the EU and tough new targets to reduce it have been set by the EU's framework directive on water quality. According to ADAS, the pollution from chemically intensive farming is proving highly difficult to control. Despite an overall reduction in the use of fertiliser and pesticide additives avross the region, levels of diffuse nutrient pollutants in UK waters are continuing to rise, posing a significant threat to acquatic wildlife and, in the long term, public water supplies.

The problem is particularly serious in East Anglia because of the relatively dry regional climate, which is gradually becoming drier and warmer because of global warming. This means that there is less rainwater available to dilute water contaminants.

ADAS concludes that the problem can only be addressed by significant changes in land use, including the removal of sizeable tracts of farmland from production. As much as half of the arable land in East Anglia could have to be converted into unfertilised restorative grassland or forest.

NFU sources are sceptical, however, that the problem is quite that serious, arguing that there is a get out clause that takes account of economic impact.Any source

Doha prospects look bleak

The prospects for progress in the Doha Round trade talks are looking increasingly bleak with some analysts doubting whether a successful conclusion will be possible. The political shakeup in the Bush administration does not help. USTR Rob Portman will be leaving his job to head up Bush's budget team.

Portman was brought in by Bush 11 months ago to negotiate a successful outcome to the Doha Round. His replacement is being interpreted by some as a sign of reduced US interest in the round. His replacement, the current deputy Susan Schwab, is regarded as a knowledgeable trade lawyer but as lacking the political clout of her predecessor who was well connected in Congress.

There is concern about how far Europe can negotiate effectively given the weakness of the new government in Italy and the continuing political upheaval and uncertainty in France which faces presidential elections next year. German Chancellor Angela Merkel may be required to take a leadership role.

It is now clear that the April 30 for agreeing modalities in agriculture (i.e., hard numbers) which was set at the Hong Kong ministerial will now be missed. The only area where progress has been made is on the Blue Box where there is broad agreement that the figure at which spending would be capped could be reduced from 5 per cent to 2.5 per cent of domestic spending. But there is still an argument about whether this discipline can be made effective, e.g., by introducing commodity specific disciplines.Any source

BVI foreign investment in Vietnam

The British Virgin Islands is a leading foreign investor country not only in China. The BVI has strong positions also in other countries, especially in Asian region. Today let’s have a look at Vietnam.

The Law on Foreign Investment in Vietnam was officially introduced on the 1st of January 1998 and up to the end of 2004, foreign investment into Vietnam experienced a period of 17 years and enjoyed great results. In accordance with statistics, over 5,000 projects are still in effect in Vietnam with a total capital of $45.5 billions. The half of these projects are under operation with the total realized capital of $26 billions.

The foreign investment sector in Vietnam contributes to the country about 15% GDP and approximately 17% development fund. Foreign investment projects created 739 thousand jobs.
In the first 2 months of 2006, Vietnam has attracted US$1.32 billion in foreign direct investment. Of the total, $1.18 billion came from 113 newly licensed projects, an increase of 16% in project numbers and 15% in registered capital over the same period. $135 million was added to 38 existing foreign direct investment (FDI) projects, a year-on-year increase of 41%.
In February 55 projects with registered capital of $765 million were granted licences. 27 projects added $110 million to their investments. In the first 2 months of 2006, the biggest investors in Vietnam were South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, USA, as well as the British Virgin Islands. Most investment capital went to the real estate and industry sectors. In the same period, HCM City attracted the largest FDI with $645 million from 40 projects.

In the first half of 2005, the BVI companies have invested 35.28 million US dollars in 11 projects in Vietnam. Till the end of 2004, the British Virgin Islands companies participated in 212 projects with registered capital 2.4 billion US dollars and executed realized capital 1.14 billion US dollars. It placed the BVI on the 6th position in foreign investor’s list after Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong. The foreign investor’s position of the BVI is not as strong as in China, but it is also very considerable.

One of the latest projects is MegaStar Media, a joint venture between Envoy Media Partners Limited (BVI) and local Phuong Nam Corp that is going to increase capital to develop multiscreen cinema exhibition centres in Vietnam. The BVI - Vietnamese joint venture will receive a loan of US$25 million from the ANZ (Australia and New Zealand Banking Group) in order to develop around 10 cinema centres across Vietnam. Prudential Fund Management Co sources, structures and arranges the fund of this project.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

The BVI strengthens ties with Macao (Macau)

The BVI strengthens its ties with Macao – a region near another small offshore jurisdiction under China People republics control – Hong Kong.

The BVI granted visa-free access to the passport holders of the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR). The diplomatic agencies informed the MSAR about ther granting on Thursday. Of course, BVI was not the only country - 72 countries and territories have granted Macao passport holders visa-free access or visa-on-arrival status previously.

Macau is commonly known as the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. It is situated on the southern coast of China. Macau was the oldest European colony in China and it was administered by Portugal until 1999. Then, in 1999, the administrative power over Macau was transferred to the People's Republic of China. Now, together with Hong Kong, it is 1 of 2 Special Administrative Regions of the PRC.

Its historical colonial relics are great, still Macau's biggest attraction is its gambling industry and casinos. Many forms of gambling are legal here. The most popular game is Pai Gow, which is played with Chinese dominoes. It is typical of gamblers from Hong Kong to take one-day excursions to Macau.

In 2004 the Sands Casino opened - and gambling revenues from Macau's casinos for the first time exceeded those of Las Vegas (about $5 billion). So, Macau became one of world's highest-volume gambling centres in the world. Many casinos are going to be opened through 2008 - the Wynn Macau Casino in 2006, the Venetian Macau in 2007, the Crown Macau, Galaxy, and others.

To make the long story short, the small economy is growing rapidly due to gambling-related tourism from mainland China and construction from the new casinos.

As to the legal system of Macau, it is based largely on Portuguese law. This is the legacy of the law – the same as the British Virgin Islands, the law of which is based on United Kingdom law. The Macau territory has its own independent judicial system. It is headed by the Court of Final Appeal (CFA), which makes final judgments on court cases.

The chief executive of Macau is appointed by the People's Republic of China's central government by an election committee. The members of this committee are nominated by corporate and community bodies. The first China-appointed chief executive of the Macau SAR is Edmund Ho Hau Wah - a community leader and former banker.
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Friday, April 21, 2006

BVI new Governor’s speech at his swearing

It was interesting to hear what the new BVI Governor David Pearey said regarding the future of the offshore business in the British Virgin Islands at his Swearing on Tuesday, April 18, 2006.

In particular the new BVI governor said the following:
"In the seven years since the White Paper on the Overseas Territories - Partnership for Progress and Prosperity - was published, much has been achieved not least in the territories themselves. The progress made in the BVI is a shining example of this. But some things have not of course changed. Amongst these is the need to ensure that the territories continue to be stable places, secure internally and externally, where the rule of law is paramount and where governments govern honestly and in the best interests of the people."

It’s nice to hear that the new BVI Governor who has just arrived from the United Kingdom emphasized the achievements of the BVI. But the list of what has not been done seems a little bit alerting. However, the last phrase may be interpreted as related to the fact that the new BVI Governor just wanted to emphasize that he is not going to fold his arms. Just contrary – there is a full list of things that are a subject to improvement, no matter how they are arranged now.

The new BVI Governor continued:
"The attainment of these aims becomes ever more challenging in a globalised world and as the economies of the territories (not least the BVI) become more sophisticated and complex. My own responsibilities, as currently defined, place a heavy emphasis on this area. I am in particular required to help ensure that in the BVI we meet our international obligations, that Britain is protected against contingent liabilities, and that good government is maintained. These are of course all moving targets. Success demands constant attention and vigilance. In the area of international obligations your financial services sector, like all others, has to comply with international demands for transparency if the international community is to defeat the triple scourges of money laundering, terrorism and drug trafficking. But, as it happens, legitimate business demands precisely the same. So compliance does not just match international concerns, but also makes sound business sense. Keeping up with evolving international expectations is never easy, but is for very good reasons essential."

It seems that the heading for fighting offshore business by the British Virgin Islands related to money laundering, terrorism and drug trafficking will stay the same. It should keep this offshore jurisdiction as attractive for legal offshore business as it is now.
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Thursday, April 20, 2006

The BVI as the 2nd largest foreign investor in China

April 14, 2006 the Ministry of Commerce announced that China's actual foreign direct investment experienced a 6.4% year-on-year increase to 14.25 billion USD in the 1st quarter of the year.

In accordance with this statement, the largest sources of foreign direct investment during the period were Hong Kong, the British Virgin Islands and Japan.The 10 largest sources of foreign direct investment (FDI) accounted for 84.75% of China's total actual FDI for the period. So, the British Virgin Islands is the leader following Hong Kong. According to the statement, in the 1st quarter the number of new foreign-funded companies was 8,909, which is down 4.26% year-on-year.

Director of the FDI Research Centre under the ministry, Jin Bosheng suggested that FDI into China is expected to continue increasing steadily for 5 to 10 years. Central China expects to attract further FDI in such industries as high-tech, chemical and auto parts. Jin Bosheng added that China is about to attract more FDI through mergers and acquisitions (M&A), a common practice worldwide.

All over the world, 80% of FDI is obtained through M&A, while the figure is currently 10% in China, where FDI is mainly obtained through investments such as the establishment of new properties.

Jin Bosheng made comments on FDI recover, which should be attributed to China's rapidly growing economy and the nation's efforts to provide a more favourable foreign investment environment.

In 2005 the gross domestic product (GDP) of China reached US$2.23 trillion, the 4th largest in the world, and an increase of 9.9% year-on-year. The head of the National Bureau of Statistics, Qiu Xiaohua suggested that China's GDP is expected to remain stable but fast and increase by 9% this year.

Since China's entering the World Trade Organization, the Chinese Government has been trying to improve the investment environment for foreign companies, improving relevant rules and regulations as well as service quality and opening previously forbidden zones such as banking, retailing and insurance. And China's major FDI sources were Hong Kong, the British Virgin Islands and Japan.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

David Pearey as BVI's New Governor

David Dacre Pearey today is sworn as the Territory’s next Governor. He took the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath for Due Execution of Office. The welcome and swearing-in ceremony was held at the Legislative Council at 9 a.m. Chief Minister the Honourable Dr. D. Orlando Smith and Leader of the Opposition Honourable Ralph T. O'Neal addressed and David Pearey made a reply.

The Governor Designate arrived with his family at Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport on Saturday afternoon. He was greeted by Chief Minister Honourable Dr. D. Orlando Smith, Deputy Governor Dancia Penn, Q.C., and Police Commissioner Reynell Frazer.

It should be noted that Mr. Pearey came to the BVI after 27 years of work in the UK diplomatic service. From 1995 to 1999 he was counsellor and head of the Commercial/Economic Department in the British High Commission in Lagos, Nigeria. From 2000 to 2004 he was British Deputy High Commissioner and and Head of Post at Karachi, Pakistan. Then until January 5, 2006 Mr. Pearey was British High Commissioner at Lilongwe, Malawi.

Earlier in the 1990s Mr. Pearey's was working as a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) inspector, and for two years he was an assistant head of the FCO’s Southern European Department.

David Pearey was First Secretary and Head of Chancery in the British High Commission in Kampala, Uganda. This was from 1988 until 1990, and prior to that Mr. Pearey was a policy planner in the Energy Science and Space Department of the FCO. His first diplomatic service was the post of secretary in the British Embassy in Ankara from 1979 till 1982.

Mr. Pearey succeeds Thomas Macan, the previous Governor who left the Territory on April 10 after serving more than three years in the BVI.

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