In my previous two commentaries, I imagined the Virgin Islands of 2030 through the eyes of a 10-year-old Guyanese girl named Maria and her older brother Zak. This week, I’ll look through their father’s eyes.
Troy finished checking the Hindi version of his commentary on the Salt Island digs and removed his headset. Zak, his son, waved his arms in the air, with his headphones still on. Troy wondered if they had been right to give Maria one for her 10th birthday, but she had pleaded for it. He had warned her against emerging too quickly into the real world from seeming to travel through space and time. Totalitarian states used immersive reality as a very effective tool with which to brainwash disoriented dissenters.
A hearing-incapacitated friend had told him years ago about the confusion radio advertisements supported by background music had imposed on her: She happily would have enjoyed the uninterrupted songs. Even a minister’s carefully crafted New Year message was ruined for her by loud piano playing throughout it. Its support of the message was counterproductive as it created such a conflict that she tore out her hearing aids.
Salt Island project
Troy’s Artificial Lawyer zipped through the contracts for the Salt Island digs in under a minute, confirming the validity of their terms and projected revenue streams. The University of Southampton had awarded his institute a grant to explore the beach for any surviving remains of the RMS Rhone’s crew buried there as part of a documentary on the Great Storm of 1867. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical company which had won the sole rights to analysing the salt was sponsoring the study of the sea salt industry.
In accordance with the revised planning laws, an environmental survey had been undertaken before any development could proceed. This included searching for evidence of any human habitation in the past and determination as to whether any part of the land might be considered an historic site. If so, its future was to be discussed between government archaeologists and landowners’ representatives, with legal notices requesting their presence being placed in the local news media and online.
The Time Team Channel was covering the dig in the settlement, but the higher ground was off limits until it had been surveyed for wildlife and botanical specimens by the team from Kew, with further financial support from the pharma firm. Under the government’s agreement, any resultant patents on herbal treatments or pharmaceutical ingredients would be initially registered in the VI.
The Salt Island Descendants Committee was involved with every part of each project, from overseeing its operation to maintaining the old family cottages, one of which provided its resident wardens with the unobtrusively installed pipes and wiring that provided all the home comforts expected in 2030. Members of the committee would star in a costume movie portraying the life of Clementine Smith.
Troy glanced through Zak’s findings on how the VI financial services industry had responded to the challenges presented to it during 2020, then gently chided him for confusing the VI’s constitutional name with company law when referring to VI companies instead of BVI ones.
The BVI Financial Services Commission (BVIFS) designed the BVI Business Companies Act, 2004 to build on the success of the International Business Companies Act, 1984, which had been widely copied by other tax havens, while incorporating into it forms and procedures specifically tied into the VI’s regulatory structure, making it harder to copy and enact.
The letters BVI were deliberately inserted to perpetuate and safeguard the brand, particularly in Hong Kong, where BVI companies are commonly called “BVIs.” However, companies formed under the later act are usually called “BCs” or “BVI companies” in the offshore financial industry. Nonetheless, the act is often mistakenly referred to as simply the “Business Companies Act.”
Troy also criticised Zak’s acceptance of fake news and his reliance on hearsay rather than fact concerning the reported flight of capital from Hong Kong. While it was probably true that some Hong Kongers had used BVI companies legitimately, it was suspected that many of their ultimate beneficial owners may have been Chinese triads or corrupt Communist officials.
The VI government proudly proclaimed its acceptance on a white list of financial services meeting international standards, but on July 15, 2020, the United Kingdom minister for the overseas territories had told Parliament that the crown dependences and all eight of the other OTs had committed themselves to introducing publicly accessible registers of company beneficial ownership by 2023.
The UK foreign secretary had welcomed their leadership in improving corporate transparency and tackling illicit finance globally and commented that the UK government was working towards open registers becoming a global norm by then. As the VI had said it would accept open registers when that became the case, some commentators had wondered why the VI government was still hesitating.
They surmised that either its legislators were unaware that the VI was then on its own or perhaps some of them were concerned that acceptance of public access to registers of company beneficial ownership might lead to calls for public access to their registers of private interests.