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13th June 2018, 14:53

BVI prepares constitutional challenge to UK's Anti-Money Laundering legislation

The British Virgin Islands is preparing to mount a legal challenge against the UK Government over the recent amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, which gives the UK Parliament the power to legislate over its Overseas Territories. The Cayman Islands is also considering whether to join the action.

Fabian Picardo called the measure to force the OT’s to make public the real owners of registered companies, an “unacceptable act of modern colonialism”.

Territories including the BVI, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands fear that a publicly accessible register of the beneficial owners of companies will undermine their financial services industries, on which their local economies depend.

There is also concern that the Commons vote, to impose direct legislation on the OT’s, by way of an Order in Council, infringes the constitutional rights of the islands to oversee their own domestic legislation.

A spokesperson for the BVI legal team said they are confident there are constitutional grounds for the challenge on the basis that the UK Parliament has “overreached” itself, adding there are also human rights issues raised by public access to the register.

BOT leaders are to hold two days of talks with ministers in an attempt to reverse the UK Government’s decision. GBC has put questions to the Gibraltar Government to find out what action, if any, it is taking.

And in answer to GBC questions, the Government says Gibraltar is unaffected by the substance of this matter as it will be implementing the new provisions on public registers as an EU obligation.

However, it says it will be represented at the relevant meeting with the UK Government, in a watching compacity, by the UK representative, Dominique Searle, given the importance of the Constitutional issue.

The Chief Minister has also discussed the consequences of the constitutional aspects with the Overseas Territories’ Leaders. It points out each is affected in a different way as all Overseas Territories have different constitutions.

The Government reserves all its rights on the matter.