With effect from 1 July 2017, the Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System (“BOSS”) was enacted in the BVI. BOSS is a secure private database, accessible only by BVI competent authorities (Financial Investigation Agency, Financial Services Commission, International Tax Authority and the Attorney General’s Chambers) to deal with requests from other BVI or UK law enforcement authorities.
The system changes the way BVI competent authorities will be able to access beneficial ownership information of BVI companies, and ensures that the BVI is compliant with the Exchange of Notes agreement entered into with the UK in April 2016. The agreement is to enhance exchange of information to assist law enforcement agencies in combatting tax evasion and money laundering, and demonstrates the BVI’s ongoing commitment to providing the appropriate balance between privacy and transparency. Every Registered Agent is required to maintain a database and load into BOSS details of the individuals who ultimately own or control 25% or more of the shares or voting rights of a BVI company.
There are certain reporting exemptions to BOSS, namely:
- Investment funds
- Listed companies
- Companies subject to direct regulatory oversight in the BVI
- Foreign, non-BVI companies
- Companies struck off prior to 1 January 2016
All BVI companies are now required to notify their Registered Agent of any change in beneficial ownership within 15 days. Failure to do so will constitute an offence by the company, which could result in a fine of up to US$250,000 and/or imprisonment not exceeding five years.
Given recent events surrounding data protection, security of data is of paramount importance to the BVI and its clients. Every Registered Agent in the BVI will have sole responsibility for maintaining its own separate database, which can only be accessed by a registered user using a registered computer, in order to ensure full confidentiality. Information on that database is confidential and can only be accessed externally by a Competent Authority. The database is not centralised, but instead is a group of separate repositories with the highest level of encryption and data security. Data cannot be downloaded or extracted from the system; rather it only allows for searches to be carried out.
Should you have any queries about the obligations JTC (BVI) Limited has in reporting beneficial owner information in relation to your structure, please do not hesitate to contact your JTC primary contact or, alternatively, Michelle Le Herissier as Managing Director of our BVI office.