The Virgin Islands government signed agreements with the governments of Portugal and Germany last week, a move designed to keep the territory’s financial services sector in good standing with global regulators.   \ Deputy Premier Dancia Penn signed separate Tax Information Exchange Agreements with German and Portuguese officials at the BVI London Office on Oct. 5.

The TIEAs provide “for full exchange of information on request in both criminal and civil tax matters and [build] upon legislation in both jurisdictions, which already provides for co-operation and the exchange of information,” according to a press release from Government Information Services.

Ms. Penn said at the signing that the agreements show a common commitment “to develop and comply with international standards on money laundering, terrorist financing and financial regulation,” according to the press release.

In the midst of the global financial crisis, some world leaders have criticised offshore financial centres, referring to them as tax havens” at the Group of 20 Summit in London in April 2009.

Soon after, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development began classifying financial centres on “black,” “white” or “grey” lists based on the number of TIEAs signed with other countries.

The VI was initially placed on the grey list, but signed its 12th TIEA in August 2009 to make the “white list.”

The German agreement is the 19th TIEA the territory has signed. Premier Ralph O’Neal has said that the territory is committed to signing more.

Singapore meeting

Meanwhile, scrutiny of offshore financial centres continues, and was the topic of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, a two-day meeting held on Sept. 29 in Singapore.

The OECD-sponsored meeting disclosed the results of a peer-review process examining the legal and regulatory frameworks for Bermuda, Botswana, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, India, Monaco, Panama and Qatar. Of those jurisdictions, Botswana and Panama were deemed ineligible to move to the next stage of the review process and must complete requirements of the first stage, a statement issued after the meeting reported, according to the AFP news agency.

“These reports show that this is not just a numbers game; it is about having in place a legal and regulatory framework which enables an effective exchange of information,” the statement declared.

The Singapore meeting was held as part of the OECD annual review of international tax transparency and will be accompanied by the publication of a report, “Tax Co-operation 2010: Towards a Level Playing Field,” which is scheduled to be released on Nov. 15, according to the organisation’s Web site.