Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith announced in the House of Assembly on 13 September that there has been no development in relation to the legal considerations in response to the UK’s call for public registers for beneficial owners by 2020. Neither has there been any other conversations with the United Kingdom government on the matter.
The subject was raised during the questions and answers segment of that sitting by Opposition Member and Third District Represent Hon. Julian Fraser.
The Third District Representative asked the Premier whether he is in a position to give the cost to the Government of the Virgin Islands for commissioning the two Law Firms to challenge the UK Government on its Law on Beneficial Ownership Register.
However, Premier Smith did not disclose the cost to the Opposition Member as he explained that it would not be prudent to do so. “I decline to answer any questions about the legal fees associated with the legal challenge at this time, so as not to prejudice the conduct of this matter,” Hon. Smith explained.
Seemingly undaunted by the declined response, Hon. Fraser proceeded to query whether there has been any development in the matter relating to the proposed 2020 deadline for public registers of beneficial ownership. The Opposition member also enquired whether there has been any further talks between the Government and the UK on the matter. In response Hon. Smith stated, “There are no discussions that are going on between the BVI and UK Government on this matter.”
The legal challenge being referred to by Hon. Fraser refers to Government’s consulting with Senior Partner of Collas Crill, Gerard St. C. Farara, QC, WithersWorldwide and leading counsel Dan Sarooshi QC of Essex Court Chambers and Professor of Law at Oxford University for guidance on possible legal actions in response to the public register push.
This is not the first time the Third District Representative, has sought information on the subject via House of Assembly questions. In fact, the most recent attempt was made by Hon. Fraser during the 19 July sitting of the House of Assembly. However, little was said as Hon. Smith explained that information relating to the legal matter or lawyers including information about the fees might affect the case.
In his most recent update to the media on the subject of the legal challenge the Premier explained that the discussion of a legal challenge should be dealt with delicately. The Premier who was at the time fielding questions at a press briefing on 29 August noted that “from a hypothetical sense” there are grounds to challenge the United Kingdom’s Public Register for Beneficial Ownership 2020 promptings.