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Do not mistake privacy for secrecy - Lorna G. Smith OBE

- The First Lady & Interim Executive Director of BVI Finance blasts critics for labelling the VI a tax haven
December 28th, 2017 | Tags: privacy secrecy Tax Haven Lorna G. Smith Sunday Herald
First Lady and Interim Executive Director of BVI Finance Mrs Lorna G. Smith OBE has defended the Virgin Islands financial services sector in an article in Scottish newspaper The Sunday Herald of December 26, 2017. Photo: VINO/File
Former Permanent Secretary and young Virgin Islander businessman Julian Willock was previously the lone voice strongly and publicly defending the Virgin Islands' financial services industry, including on the international scene. Photo: VINO/File
Former Permanent Secretary and young Virgin Islander businessman Julian Willock was previously the lone voice strongly and publicly defending the Virgin Islands' financial services industry, including on the international scene. Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- The Interim Executive Director of BVI Finance Mrs Lorna G. Smith OBE has come to the defense of the territory being labelled a tax haven, penning an article in Scottish newspaper The Sunday Herald of December 26, 2017, in which she admonished that persons not mistake privacy for secrecy.

The Virgin Islands, despite being one of the most regulated offshore finance jurisdictions, continues to be menancingly and unfairly labelled a tax haven, especially by the so called International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), who has been relentless in attacking the reputaton of the ligitimate business of the British Overseas Territory.

Tax neutral jurisdiction

“And please do not mistake privacy for secrecy. We share all necessary information, including beneficial ownership, on the individuals and businesses that use our offshore services with relevant competent authorities, including those in the UK,” said Mrs Smith, who is the wife of the Territory’s Premier and Minister of Finance Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL).

In the article in The Sunday Herald, Mrs Smith said claims that the territory is a Tax haven; secrecy jurisdiction; a faraway place serving no purpose or value to those other than the super-rich are all wrong.

“The BVI is a tax neutral jurisdiction. This means that whilst the BVI applies taxes on residents and domestic businesses for activity that takes place in the jurisdiction, authorities do not charge local taxes on transactions conducted or assets held in the BVI that relate to economic activity elsewhere.”

“But let me be clear. This does not reduce, mitigate or in any way change the tax liability in other jurisdictions. For example, a business operating in the UK but which is incorporated in the BVI is still liable to pay taxes on its UK activity to HMRC.”

VI is transparent

International journalists often suspiciously label the VI's financial services operations as being 'secretive' in nature.

According to Mrs Smith, “people lazily assume and criticise us for our supposed opaqueness. The reality is that the BVI is transparent. I could list all the initiatives that support this, such as the BVI’s full support and membership of the OECD’s Global Forum on Tax and Exchange of Information and the fact we have no banking secrecy rules, but without context these can distract us from an important principle – the principle of the right to privacy.”

She said another way of looking at it is to ask whether you would want to share details of your financial transactions with the world, or whether you deem this to be private?

Contrary to what many are led to believe, Mrs Smith said the VI fully supports initiatives to improve international standards on governance and regulation. For example, the VI was an early adopter of the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (CRS) and is currently rolling out an innovative cloud based technology platform, known as the Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System (BOSSs), which allows competent authorities to access beneficial ownership on BVI business companies. This information is then available to relevant authorities, including Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the UK.

“Simply put, the BVI has developed a world renowned international business and finance centre that helps facilitate cross-border trade and investment,” she added.

Mrs Smith added that, according to a recent study by Capital Economics, a leading economics consultancy, the VI mediates over US$1.5 trillion of investment globally (US$169 billion in the UK), supports two million jobs globally (150,000 in the UK) and contributes over US$15bn in tax annually to governments around the world, including US$3.9B in the UK.

“This represents real trade, real business activity and real investment that has tangible benefits to people the world over. Major international development banks which use BVI business companies to fund vital projects, such as the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, can vouch for this too,” said the Territory’s First Lady.

Image may contain: text, outdoor and nature                  A section of the article by Mrs Lorna G. Smith OBE published in The Sunday Herald. Photo: VINO

Willock was previously the lone voice defending FS

Most of the points mentioned by Mrs Smith, however, were uttered before by one person, former Permanent Secretary and young Virgin Islander businessman Julian Willock who has strongly and publicly defended the VI's financial services industry, including on the international scene.

Last year Mr Willock had an interview with the BBC when local political leaders were silent while the world was labelling the VI as a 'tax haven' following the Panama Papers and in January of this year he had another interview with the United States National Public Radio in the New York Area.

24 Responses to “Do not mistake privacy for secrecy - Lorna G. Smith OBE”

  • Maggie (28/12/2017, 09:41) Like (13) Dislike (4) Reply
    1 lady and premier needs to be gone now. The bvi don't need this type of exposure from self interest wanna be bigots.

    Heads of government that allows anyone whether under their government or from another country to steal from the citizens needs to be removed from power expeditiously and held accountable in court.
  • ... (28/12/2017, 09:53) Like (30) Dislike (3) Reply

    If them wasn't such a snotty self serving diva then tem might be worth listening too. But since them have no time for us common folk, I have no time for them!

    • Really (28/12/2017, 12:31) Like (1) Dislike (4) Reply
      You are concern with the wrong thing, its like saying because you don't like the snobbish doctor you would allow him to safe you life hmmmm.
  • ann (28/12/2017, 10:03) Like (5) Dislike (3) Reply
    The esteem and lorna need to team up
  • :/ SERIOUSLY? (28/12/2017, 10:16) Like (13) Dislike (8) Reply
    So knowing that my children when grown up, and I have to pay for the mistakes you guys make in the finance handling and in the country, you sit down there talking about secrecy vs. privacy. what privacy you talking about when it is not your money; its my money and others, the country's money, and I know that every one wants to know what's going on with there money. Please, I beg, let the man have a chance to save his decency, and not his pride. By the way; why are you the one sitting there talking find your rightful place, start being a helpmate and not a hellmate.

    • BS (28/12/2017, 11:29) Like (5) Dislike (1) Reply

      Please, you don't give a #@%$& about any children, you care about yourself. If you were getting your way with Government finances you would take it and never ask about children. Everyone cares about children in the BVI but look at the young generation, how they're treated, how they behave. Look at how they're abandoned day in and day out by their caring parents to fend for themselves. Give me a @$%^& break please. Leave the kids out of this mess.

  • just asking.... (28/12/2017, 10:55) Like (12) Dislike (0) Reply
    When the hick she going go home?
  • .... (28/12/2017, 10:57) Like (6) Dislike (2) Reply
    Moo moo, she is talking about the financial services industry. Clearly, you did not read the article.
  • critic (28/12/2017, 11:05) Like (13) Dislike (1) Reply
    Well hear of the voice of the true Premier, Hon. Lorna G. Smith, OBE she's who running the country.
    • Strong Woman (28/12/2017, 17:26) Like (5) Dislike (9) Reply
      And if she is running the Country, so what. She is more than qualified to do so. I happen to admire Mrs.Smith because she is a strong woman.
  • Observer (28/12/2017, 12:08) Like (6) Dislike (1) Reply
    The blind are leading the blind. Complying with international requirements is the ONLY way forward. Have these people NOT learned anything from their experiences with Irma?
    They want handouts from international agencies but they refuse to co-operate with international agency requirements. Dumb and Dumber!
    • Yes (28/12/2017, 13:12) Like (15) Dislike (2) Reply
      @ Observer, you have NO CLUE! Why aren't these so called international requirements applied to other jurisdictions like Delaware, Nevada, London etc? To launder money you need BANKS! BVI is NOT a banking jurisdiction so where is the money? We merely facilitate business by setting up corporate vehicles, the money is not at the registry and it sure isn't with the little banks here so it begs the question, who are the real culprits? The money is in banks that are located in the same EU and others that are pointing fingers at us! Learn about the industry that contributes 60cents to every dollar earned in your country before spewing the propaganda and garbage pushed by these onshore jurisdictions. There is nothing wrong with what the BVI is doing! Why should the BVI be concerned about corporate taxes on businesses that are merely registered here but doing their operations elsewhere? It's the duty of those other jurisdictions to police themselves, not our job to do it for them. If they want the money the need not look far because it's in their jurisdictions and they know it. BVI is being used as a political scapegoat and it's time we stood up to the BS and say enough is enough!
      • Observer (28/12/2017, 19:09) Like (4) Dislike (3) Reply
        You are 5 years out of date "LOL" and listening to too much insular propaganda. The use of offshore companies to mitigate tax liabilities and protect assets is no longer flavour in the progressive global fs industry and is out dated. Other more interesting vehicles are now being used in other competing jurisdictions. If BVI is to stay alive within the fs industry it needs to update its product offering. The only thing wrong with what the BVI is doing is that it is behind the times and is living in the past! All good things come to an end. Wise up.
  • Team Lorna (28/12/2017, 12:41) Like (5) Dislike (12) Reply
    I agree with Mrs.Smith 100%.
  • BVIslander (28/12/2017, 14:35) Like (3) Dislike (2) Reply
    Most of the comments on here were made by persons who need a crash course in the BVI financial services sector. 70 percent of our residents still has no clue about this vital part of our economy. Mrs. Smith was right. Clearly this is another attempt by France and the rest of the minions in the EU to destroy the BVI economy. Devils. No wonder the UK is leaving. The best move the UK government could have made.
    • i said it (28/12/2017, 17:16) Like (3) Dislike (2) Reply
      Exactly BVIslander, of course the First Lady is correct. You said 70 percent, I say 80 percent still has no clue.
    • John (29/12/2017, 09:33) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
      And how is that working out for the UK? If you haven't followed the news it has been a car crash.
      • BVIslander (30/12/2017, 15:34) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        @ John: which crash course? The USA will be just fine. There will be some rough patches until the exit process is completed but make no mistake the EU nees the U.K. hence the reason why France and Germany are trying their best to give it a hard time. The U.K. coming out of the EU means that it will no longer be subject to the EU law maintaining sovereignty over the U.K. national law etc.
  • Oh cime on (28/12/2017, 20:10) Like (3) Dislike (2) Reply
    Most of you that is bashing Lorna with your silly comments need to learn how to read and understand what you are reading. She is correct.Seems like most of you have some type of vendetta against the woman. Don't hate her because she is a strong well versed woman.
  • Uh huh (28/12/2017, 21:20) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    so then why hasn't financial services gone after banks that demand irrelevant personal information from their
    depositors, Lorna? Why did you and you husband sit there while a certain Toronto based bank wanted to know
    how much money a deceased relative left to family members? That is SICK and you were told about it and did
    nothing. That is plain disgusting. BVI isn't a 'tax haven' and if it were, so what? What puts taxes up there with
    God anyway? You let banks walk on people here, you deserve to be punished. worse than Irma.
  • Bob (29/12/2017, 00:19) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Tpkohe truth is an offence .just immagine the wiman is defending the bvi against these white oppressors that believe that believe that we dont deserve nothing. They try to portray us as a corupt, lawless country that allow and accept we need to anything to happen within the financial service. Its ok for them to label us as a country as corupt and when one of us stand up to defend thou guys have the world to say set of f..king idiots with you all slavish mentality
  • Welsah (29/12/2017, 16:10) Like (1) Dislike (1) Reply
    The HUSBAND over finance , the WIFE too ! WE ARE DOOMED !!!!!

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