- Written by CONOR KING DEVITT
- Published: 19 October 2017
The Commercial Division of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has heard more than 100 matters since it was temporarily relocated from the Virgin Islands to St. Lucia in the wake of Hurricane Irma — a number that industry stakeholders say reflects the resilience of the territory’s financial services industry.
Despite promoting that figure, BVI Finance Limited also maintains that the move is a stopgap solution at best and continues to press financial services companies to donate money so the Commercial Division facility in Road Town can be repaired.
On Oct. 3, BVIF — the mostly-government-funded private company tasked with promoting the territory’s financial industry — distributed a letter stating that the court building would need $350,000 to get back up and running.
At an industry meeting last week, BVIF Interim Director Lorna Smith said $175,000 had been raised.
“We seem to be stuck there for the last few days,” she said. “We would be grateful if a few people would move us beyond that as quickly as possible so that we can make the $350,000 we were hoping to make.”
Despite stating that the 100-plus matters were evidence of the court’s “ability to operate virtually unimpeded,” Ms. Smith also pointed to the shortcomings of the St. Lucia relocation.
“Sometimes the court searches are a challenge,” she said. “Right now there is not a problem but last week there was, and this is because of technical difficulties that are experienced with IT.”
In a statement released this week, Ms. Smith said the court is expected to return this year.
During last Thursday’s industry meeting, Michael Fay QC, a partner at Advocates BVI, floated the idea of bringing a Commercial Division judge back to the territory before the court facility is ready.
“I think it’s critical. We can’t seriously do trials here, because we can’t accommodate witnesses,” Mr. Fay said, adding, “But there is no reason we can’t get a Commercial Court judge back here, put him in a room in a hotel, … and then 80 percent of the work can be done at a desk like the one that you’re sitting in.”
Ms. Smith did not comment on Mr. Fay’s suggestion but added that government has made the Commercial Court’s restoration one of its highest priorities.