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VI Companies in ‘Landmark Victory’ after challenge to AG’s powers

The BVI High Court has quashed decisions taken by Attorney General, Hon Baba Aziz, and a Magistrate, in what is being hailed as a landmark victory for Companies registered in the Virgin Islands and their rights to Privacy and Confidentiality. Photo: VINO/File
In handing down its ruling, the High Court has found that, “…the facts of this case reveal that not only did the Attorney General (Baba Aziz) ignore the Claimants’ representations, he also failed to investigate fully the allegations and evidence produced by the Claimants...
In handing down its ruling, the High Court has found that, “…the facts of this case reveal that not only did the Attorney General (Baba Aziz) ignore the Claimants’ representations, he also failed to investigate fully the allegations and evidence produced by the Claimants..." Photo: VINO/File
Eminent Local Law Firm, O’Neal Webster, saw a litigation team being led by Paul B. Dennis, Q.C., Photo: VINO/File
Eminent Local Law Firm, O’Neal Webster, saw a litigation team being led by Paul B. Dennis, Q.C., Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI - The Virgin Islands High Court on Thursday June 19, 2018, quashed decisions taken by Attorney General (AG), Honourable Baba Aziz, and a Magistrate, in what is being hailed as a landmark victory for Companies registered in the Virgin Islands (VI), and their rights to Privacy and Confidentiality.

The subject of the case-law involved the exercise by the Attorney General and his intrusive powers under the Criminal Justice (International Cooperation) Act.

Vs Attorney General

Magnum Investment Trading Corporation & Niteroi Limited—the claimant companies—were the subject of a request made by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, for assistance from the AG of the VI, to obtain evidence in aid of alleged criminal investigations in Russia.

The AG subsequently—using his powers under the Act—caused a search warrant to be issued by the Magistrate, for the search of the companies’ registered agent’s premises and the seizure of the companies’ confidential records for transmission to Russia.

While the documents obtained were in course of transmission through diplomatic channels, they successfully applied for an interim injunction to abort their delivery to Russia while they sought judicial review of the AG’s decisions.

The companies’ applied for and successfully challenged the decisions to request by the AG for the search warrant; the Magistrate’s decision to issue the warrant; and the AG’s decision to transmit the documents to Russia, once the search warrant was executed, without considering representations which the claimants made to him that demonstrated cogent reasons for not complying with the request.

O’Neal Webster

Eminent Local Law Firm, O’Neal Webster, saw a litigation team being led by Paul B. Dennis, Q.C., together with United Kingdom-based counsel, Monica Carss-Frisk, Q.C., who successfully represented the successful claimants.

In handing down its ruling, the High Court has found that, “…the facts of this case reveal that not only did the Attorney General ignore the Claimants’ representations, he also failed to investigate fully the allegations and evidence produced by the Claimants which may present compelling reasons why a request should not be processed, and in doing so he failed to take into account relevant considerations.”

In a sixty-nine-page decision, the High Court, in handing down judgment in favour of the claimants, quashed all three of the challenged decisions.

Landmark Victory

As regards  the decision of the AG to transmit the seized documents to Russia, the court rejected his contention that (i) the Criminal Justice (International Cooperation) Act contemplated an automatic transmission of the documents once obtained by him pursuant to the request; (ii) that he was accordingly entitled to ignore the claimants’ representations regarding the improper purpose of the request; and (iii) that he had no duty to investigate those representations before complying with the request.

A missive issued on July 31, 2018, from the O’Neal Webster team, hailed the case as the first of its kind to successfully challenge the exercise of the AG’s powers under the Act.

“The case is a landmark victory for the fundamental right of a citizen—individual or corporate—to due process, and specifically, to the right to privacy and confidentiality of information,” the litigation team said.

According to the O’Neal Webster team, “the decision makes clear that contrary to the position thus far adopted by the AG in his role as the competent authority to handle international requests for information made pursuant to the Act, his function is not that of a mere “rubber stamp” but rather, consistent with the requirements of reasonableness and fairness, he must, in the words of the court, “act in a way…to satisfy himself as to the lawfulness of the request.”

2 Responses to “VI Companies in ‘Landmark Victory’ after challenge to AG’s powers”

  • Truth (31/07/2018, 11:37) Like (10) Dislike (0) Reply
    the AG has always been weak weak
  • biker (31/07/2018, 19:38) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    This 'landmark victory' will have a short lifespan of a couple of years. Public registry of BVI company beneficial owners is looming on the horizon.


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