Both United Kingdom and United States law enforcement agencies have praised the overseas territories’ systems for exchanging beneficial ownership information, with UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid calling them “extremely useful” in supporting investigations. The Virgin Islands’ Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System (BOSSS), introduced in 2017, allows police abroad to access a searchable database of the owners of VI-registered companies, without making their names publicly available.
Premier Andrew Fahie said last week that the VI government welcomed the positive comments.
“The British Virgin Islands has always been clear in its commitment to effective cooperation between relevant law enforcement agencies, so we are pleased that our proactive approach has been recognised in the UK’s review of the process,” he said.
Mr. Javid made the written statement to the House of Lords as the result of a review of the 2017 implementation of the “Exchange of Notes” on beneficial ownership information that led to BOSSS. The review found that the EoN process provided police with “rapid access to beneficial ownership information on over half a million entities based in the three [Crown dependen- cies] and six participating OTs.” He added that the full effectiveness of the systems may not be clear for some time, as many of the requests are part of long-running investigations, “but interim indicators are positive.” The review discussed expanding the scope of the EoN to include civil tax cases or beneficial ownership information for trusts.
In his response, Mr. Fahie said that the participating OTs and Crown dependencies had “consistently reiterated their commitment to the implementation of the [Exchange of Notes], as demonstrated by their ‘positive and proactive’ engagement over the last 18 months.”
The Home Secretary’s statement follows comments made in May by Steven D’Antuono, the acting deputy assistant director of the US Federal Bureau of In- vestigation’s Criminal Investigative Division, who praised the bilateral agreements between the UK and its OTs, noting their “immense value” to the UK’s National Crime Agency.
He made the comments before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in an effort to underscore the effectiveness of such systems in combating illicit financial activity, the principles of which might soon serve as a model in the US.
“These frameworks can provide valuable insight into the critical aspects of a successful system for maintaining, accessing and sharing accurate beneficial ownership information,” he wrote.
241 UK requests
Since the BOSSS platform was introduced, the BVI Financial Investigation Agency, the entity responsible for receiving the requests, has responded to 241 UK requests for beneficial ownership information, according to government.
“We continue to engage with the UK on this issue and expect to further improve the level of cooperation between our respective jurisdictions going forward,” Mr. Fahie said.