In a united front against global illicit financial flows, senior officials from the UK Overseas Territories and the United Kingdom gathered in the British Virgin Islands for a pivotal meeting on Illicit Finance. Co-chaired by the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office and the Government of the Virgin Islands, the conference took place from September 12th to 14th, 2023.
This crucial assembly comes on the heels of the accord reached during the Joint Ministerial Council held in May 2023, which established a dedicated Ministerial Level Dialogue aimed at combatting illicit finance. It represents a significant stride towards the forthcoming Joint Ministerial-Level Dialogue slated for November 2023, focusing on transparency, financial integrity, and collaborative efforts to counter illicit finance.
Recognising the unwavering commitment of Overseas Territories Governments to uphold international transparency standards, Deputy Premier and Minister for Financial Services, Labour and Trade, Hon. Lorna Smith, OBE, TEP, FCG emphasised that this dialogue builds upon prior accomplishments, reinforcing the integrity of global financial systems.
Hon. Smith also underscored that the sessions of the meeting delved into technical capacities, encompassing areas such as sanctions, countering financing of terrorism, and anti-money laundering. Customized commitments and objectives have been formulated to ensure suitability for each jurisdiction.
An exemplary initiative discussed during the meeting was the BVI’s Beneficial Ownership Secure Search System (BOSSs). This system not only aids law enforcement agencies in identifying beneficial owners of companies but has also proven instrumental in implementing sanctions against Russia following the conflict in Ukraine. A recent Pragmatix Report highlighted the rapid information sharing facilitated by BOSSs, leading to the identification and freezing of Kremlin-affiliated assets worth over $400 million.
The meeting concluded with a commitment to resource and maintain robust regulatory and enforcement regimes tailored to the unique circumstances of each jurisdiction. These efforts are aimed at upholding the reputations of financial centers as places of value and integrity.
In a pivotal leadership role, the Virgin Islands has assumed the chair of the Illicit Finance Dialogue for the fiscal year 2023/24, collaborating closely with the UK Government to drive progress.
Delegates represented at the meeting also came from Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United Kingdom have gathered in person for this historic event. The Falkland Islands and St. Helena participated virtually, underscoring the invaluable nature of their involvement.
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