British Virgin Islands updates

Immigration

BVI exempts certain categories of people from work permit requirements
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 08 September 2017

The government recently enacted the Labour Code (Work Permit Exemption) Order 2017, which excludes certain categories of people from the need to obtain work permits. In particular, the exemption for directors visiting the British Virgin Islands for board meetings supports the territory's position as the leading corporate domicile in the global economy.


Insolvency & Restructuring

Appointing liquidators after alleged loss of substratum
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 07 September 2018

The Court of Appeal recently considered the test for appointing liquidators to a company following an alleged loss of substratum. The case provides insight on the principles of loss of substratum, particularly in a case where a company's object is not prescribed by its memorandum and articles of association.

Discretionary beneficiaries' rights to trust information
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 31 August 2018

In separate but related proceedings, the BVI courts have permitted an applicant to inspect documentation relating to the liquidation of certain BVI companies. The decisions solidify the open justice policy and highlight the importance of allowing beneficiaries to oversee trustees' activities in order to ensure that the trust property is properly managed and that trustees can be held to account accordingly.

No armchair liquidators – court confirms appointment of provisional liquidators to Swiss company
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 01 June 2018

In the latest judgment regarding the DPH liquidation, the BVI Court of Appeal upheld the appointment of BVI provisional liquidators in respect of a Swiss company and clarified that evidence of dissipation of assets (in the Mareva sense) may not be a pre-condition to the appointment of provisional liquidators.

Court strikes out passing-off claim in relation to goodwill held outside British Virgin Islands
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 11 May 2018

Claims of passing off are rare in the British Virgin Islands and a recent attempt to bring a BVI action in relation to goodwill held outside the jurisdiction has failed. The court examined the law and relevant English authorities on the tort of passing off. It opined that goodwill is governed by territoriality and that in order to succeed, the claimant must prove that it has goodwill in the form of customers in the jurisdiction in which the suit is undertaken.

Pacific Andes saga: forum shopping, Chapter 11 and just and equitable winding up
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 01 September 2017

'Forum shopping' is the practice of choosing the most favourable jurisdiction in which to bring a claim. In principle, there is nothing wrong in seeking to have a case heard in the forum which is most favourable to the client. However, it can lead to some fierce jurisdictional battles, particularly in insolvency, where the choice between debtor and creditor-friendly procedures can be stark. The Commercial Court has been wrestling with this situation over the past 10 months.


Litigation

Think before you blink: court halts cross-border requests without consideration
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 23 October 2018

The BVI courts have again stepped in to ensure that proper thought and process is applied to requests made by foreign governmental bodies. In the first case of its kind to successfully challenge the exercise of the attorney general's powers under the Criminal Justice (International Cooperation) Act, the BVI High Court held that the attorney general is required to do more than rubber stamp the requests received under the act.

Stanford v Akers: asking a BVI court to reverse a liquidator's decision
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 09 October 2018

In a recent case, the BVI Court of Appeal addressed standing in the context of applications under Section 273 of the Insolvency Act 2003, whereby an aggrieved person can ask the courts to reverse or vary a liquidator's decision. The court held that, as a shareholder of a company in liquidation, the appellant was an outsider to the liquidation who had no legitimate interest that entitled him to standing under Section 273.

Revisiting costs awards – BVI Court of Appeal varies costs order based on US appeal decision
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 18 September 2018

In Fairfield Sentry Limited (In Liquidation) v Farnum Place LLC the BVI Court of Appeal varied a costs order based on a material change of circumstances – namely, a decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The BVI court held that the US decision was a "material change of circumstances" which allowed it to vary the costs order by disallowing the costs of Farnum's expert.

Singapore and BVI courts cooperate against cross-border fraud
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 14 August 2018

The Singapore Court of Appeal recently ruled to reinstate and expand a Mareva injunction against fraudster defendants in a conspiracy claim, providing strong support for an earlier decision of the BVI Commercial Court in related proceedings. The decision demonstrates the importance of consistency between courts in multiple jurisdictions in complex cross-border cases.

Court of Appeal reaffirms that it will rarely reverse findings of fact
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 07 August 2018

The BVI Court of Appeal recently dismissed an appeal against the liquidators of BVI company Pioneer Freight Futures Company Limited and reaffirmed the established law regarding reversing findings of fact. The court held that it will intervene only in rare cases, such as when there is no evidence to support the conclusion, the conclusion was based on a misunderstanding of the evidence or the conclusion was one that no reasonable judge could have reached.


Private Client & Offshore Services

Contributed by Harney Westwood & Riegels
Receivers – gateway to unlocking disabled bearer shares
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 08 November 2018

In two recent BVI Court of Appeal decisions, disabled bearer shareholders were found to have a constitutional right not to be deprived of their property without compensation. It is now abundantly clear that even where BVI disabled bearer share companies are still without functionaries (ie, directors) to facilitate the traditional redemption of those shares, the court has flexible jurisdiction to appoint receivers to redeem those disabled shares, thereby ultimately restoring the companies to a functional state.

Are you wearing the right hat? Directors' duties revisited by Court of Appeal
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 25 October 2018

The Court of Appeal judgment in Antow Holdings Limited v Best Nation Investments Limited continues the development of the law regarding BVI directors' duties following the Independent Asset Management appeal, which established – for the first time in the British Virgin Islands – clear guidance regarding the proper purpose test. The decision is arguably at the extreme end of the spectrum, with the court describing the motives of the Best Nation directors as self-serving.

Think before you blink: court halts cross-border requests without consideration
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 18 October 2018

The BVI courts have again stepped in to ensure that proper thought and process is applied to requests made by foreign governmental bodies. In the first case of its kind to successfully challenge the exercise of the attorney general's powers under the Criminal Justice (International Cooperation) Act, the BVI High Court held that the attorney general is required to do more than rubber stamp the requests received under the act.

Court appoints receiver under Arbitration Act to preserve assets pending arbitration award
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 11 October 2018

A BVI court has appointed Grant Thornton as a receiver over a BVI company under Section 43 of the Arbitration Act 2013 in order to preserve the value of the company pending the determination of foreign arbitration proceedings. The decision illustrates the effectiveness of the interim relief provided under the Arbitration Act to preserve assets against which an arbitration award will be enforced.

Stanford v Akers: asking a BVI court to reverse a liquidator's decision
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 04 October 2018

In a recent case, the BVI Court of Appeal addressed standing in the context of applications under Section 273 of the Insolvency Act 2003, whereby an aggrieved person can ask the courts to reverse or vary a liquidator's decision. The court held that, as a shareholder of a company in liquidation, the appellant was an outsider to the liquidation who had no legitimate interest that entitled him to standing under Section 273.


Shipping & Transport

Government raises charter cruising permit fees
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 16 August 2017

The government recently enacted two measures regarding the cruising permit fees that each charter boat must pay while carrying paying passengers in the British Virgin Islands. Under the Cruising Permit (Amendment) Act, boats will now be classified as either home-based or foreign-based charter boats, with set fees for each classification. The Statutory Rates, Fees and Charges (Amendment of Schedule) Order 2017 confirms these fees for internal government purposes.