PUBLIC REGISTER ENFORCEMENT EXTENDED TO 2023

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The 2023 deadline extension that was offered to Overseas Territories (OT) after the UK Parliament’s mandated public register of beneficial ownership still holds. The announcement was made this week by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in its (FCO) response to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s (FAC) report titled ‘Global Britain and The British Overseas Territories: Resetting The Relationship’

Months ago it was announced that the deadline for the implementation of public registers for beneficial ownerships was going to be extended from 2020 to 2023. However, there was an aggressive move in the United Kingdom’s parliament on 4 March to keep the original deadline of 2020 for the enactment of public registers of beneficial ownership in the British Overseas Territories (BOTs) and the Crown Dependencies (CDs). However, in that Parliamentary sitting the effort mainly targeted the Crown Dependencies in a similar manner as the May 2018 amendment forced the Overseas Territories.

The situation left some waiting with bated breath for confirmation that the deadline extension is still in place. Therefore, the response that was released by His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert on 14 May brings assurance to the BVI, as it was announced that the United Kingdom government has officially extended the deadline for public registers of beneficial ownership from 2020 to 2023.

The matter of public registers for beneficial owners came to a climax in May 2018 when the UK House of Lords’ passed the UK Sanctions and Anti Money Laundering Bill; which experts in the BVI say will have devastating effects on the main pillar of the economy as well as crippling effects on the financial sector of the other Overseas Territories.

As a result, residents of the BVI took to the streets in protest to what they viewed as an unfair measure since the Crown Dependencies were excluded.

With the deadline now extended to 2023 the UK Government announced in the response published this week that the Foreign Secretary will be working in conjunction with the elected governments of the Overseas Territories to lay out a clear, and detailed timetable for the publication of registers of beneficial ownership in each jurisdiction.

Amidst the good news about the extension was the announcement that the 2020 Order in Council was still coming. In issuing the reminder the UK Government stated: “The [UK] Government will prepare an Order in Council by the end of December 2020, with the Territories expected to have fully functioning publicly accessible registers as soon as possible, and no later than the end of 2023.”

Further the UK Government stated that it is seeking the assistance of the OTs, and will be holding technical workshops and providing the territories with assistance over the coming months. “This will support the OTs in developing publicly accessible registers,” the UK Government stated

Nonetheless, it was disclosed that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is not currently in a position to lay out detailed timetables for each territory. Therefore, it was explained that the timetable for implementing registers in each OT will differ depending on its fiscal position and business model.

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