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Trade Dept has no power to shut down unlicenced businesses- SFC Report

- said issuing of cease & desist letter had become a dangerous practice
Director for Trade, Investment Promotions and Consumer Affairs Mrs Karia J. Christopher told the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) in April 2019 that it had become a dangerous practice in the last few years for the Trade Department to issue cease and desist letters to businesses operating in the territory with a trade licence. Photo: VINO/File
The Department for Trade, Investment Promotions and Consumer Affairs located on Wickham’s Cay I, Tortola has only one Trade Inspector for the entire Virgin Islands. Photo: GIS/File
The Department for Trade, Investment Promotions and Consumer Affairs located on Wickham’s Cay I, Tortola has only one Trade Inspector for the entire Virgin Islands. Photo: GIS/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- It was during Standing Finance Committee (SFC) in April 2019 that the Director for Trade, Investment Promotions and Consumer Affairs Mrs Karia J. Christopher told the SFC that it had become a dangerous practice in the last few years for the Trade Department to issue cease and desist letters to businesses operating in the territory with a trade licence.

The Report on the Deliberations for Standing Finance Committee (SFC) to examine the Draft Estimates for 2019; however, does not quote Mrs Christopher as giving instances where the practice of issuing cease and desist letter had become risky but she indicated that ranks of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) now accompany Trade Department officers to issues such letters.

It was the Junior Minister for Trade and Economic Development and Territorial Member Honourable Sharie B. De Castro who had inquired what was done for businesses operating without licences.

The Director had responded that a company or building that was operating without a licence would be issued a cease and desist letter. She added that practice had become “a very dangerous procedure in the last few years and the department have now maintained a good relationship with the RVIPF who would accompany them to issue the order.”

Mrs Christopher noted that the issue faced is the “follow up” and indicated the Department did not have the manpower as there was only “one Trade Inspector for the entire BVI.” They now ask the Police to follow up on the department’s behalf.

No power to shut down businesses operating without trade licence

The Deputy Speaker and Territorial Member Hon Neville A. Smith recalled the procedure that is done when a person is operating without a trade licence and inquired why the department did not shut down the business.

The Director stated that “cease and desist is the legal term and the department could not revoke something that does not exist. Since the licence is not a registered licence, the department could only issue a cease and desist order.”

Funds to assist small businesses exhausted

Meanwhile, the then Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, Culture, Agriculture, Fisheries, Youth Affairs and Sports Dr The Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) inquired if there was an on-going programme to give assistance to Small Businesses.

The Director responded that there was not an on-going programme to her knowledge. She stated that in the previous administration, there were two specific programmes for generators and grants for ($500,000) which were distributed in three increments.

The Director added that the “funds have been exhausted and there were several applications pending.”

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