|Flag of the Governor of BVI|
The global furor over Russian Oligarchs, who have been skillfully hiding their assets in British Virgin Islands companies, to conceal their beneficial ownership, has now focused upon the BVI, which has been the offshore jurisdiction of choice, for decades, of individuals who cannot stand the light of day. BVI companies have been the bane of compliance officers, who cannot conclusively determine whether a client, or counterparty, who are sanctioned, might exist, as ownership is concealed from their inquiry.
The United Kingdom is pressing BVI government officials to divest themselves of their Oligarch clients, due to their support of the Russian regime, now engaged in an invasion of Ukraine. Given the reluctance, in the past, of BVI officials, to disclose beneficial ownership of their most lucrative local industry, compliance will most likely run into excuses, or worse, dilatory action. Should the BVI not comply forthwith with UK demands, which are not only lawful, but are in compliance with UK international obligations, it is suggested that Direct Rule is the only reliable solution.
Readers who are not familiar with Direct Rule by the UK may want to read The British Overseas Territories and Direct Rule, by Graham Wheeler, ukconstitutionallaw.org There is ample Constitutional precedent for the United Kingdom to impose Direct Rule upon a British overseas territory; the most recent example was over the Turks & Caicos Islands in 2009-2011. Prior to that was over Anguilla in 1969.
If the BVI, active through its government officials, chooses rot delay, deny or obfuscate UK requirements, the only logical choice may be Direct Rule. We certainly hope that it does not come to such a drastic action, but the UK should be prepared to take that step, if circumstances demand. Otherwise, the goals of the Oligarchs. to place their assets where they cannot be seized and forfeited, will be accomplished, and President Putin's financial supporters will continue to assist his illegal and immoral war.