Even amid the turmoil caused by the forced resignation of then-Speaker of the House Julian Willock on May 3, the House of Assembly still had time to pass a financial services bill strengthening the International Tax Authority.

“The ITA is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the Virgin Islands adheres to the international standards concerning exchange of information,” said Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley, who was then acting in the role of premier following the previous week’s arrest in Miami of then-Premier Andrew Fahie. “As these standards are implemented, there’s a need for it to be able to monitor the compliance of all relevant entities with the ever-developing standards.”

Dr. Wheatley, who has since been sworn in as premier, added that the ITA (Amendment) Act 2022 updates the original 2018 law, thereby helping “to ensure that the ITA has the appropriate powers to administer, supervise and monitor the compliance of all persons, legal entities, legal and other arrangements in the Virgin Islands.”

A clause in the amendment, he added, is intended to “put it beyond a doubt that one of the functions of the ITA is to administer, supervise and monitor the compliance of persons, legal entities, legal and other arrangements in the Virgin Islands, both under the ITA Act as well as under any other mutual legal assistance legislation.”

After Dr. Wheatley introduced the bill for its first and second readings, it was then sent to closed-door committee, after which it was introduced for its third reading and passed unanimously with amendments.

Dr. Wheatley also stressed the importance of keeping the territory’s financial services industry running seamlessly even amid the shakeup in government caused by the arrest of the premier and the release of the Commission of Inquiry report.

“As is always the case on matters of financial services, we certainly as a House unite to do all that we can to ensure that we strengthen the industry and that we strengthen our ability to comply with our international obligations and to be good partners in the fight against all of the things of course that we’re fighting against, whether it’s money laundering, counter-terrorism financing; whether it’s tax evasion, etcetera,” he said.