It's not just the fact that half of the companies formed by the Panama law firm of Mossack and Fonseca were BVI corporations, and it's not just that Cayman Islands corporate service firms choose to form BVI companies, rather than those of their own jurisdiction, and it's not just that BVI government rebuffed the UK request for a public registry of beneficial owners. It is that, given the ability to totally and completely hide the true identity of the ultimate beneficial owner, you have no business accepting a BVI company for a bank client, because you can never be certain that he or she truly owns that company, now or in the future.
The global firestorm, generated by the Panama Papers, has reportedly caused increase distrust of any jurisdiction where corporate shares are not registered, and a record of all transfers available for examination. Inasmuch as the British Virgin Islands' popularity as an offshore incorporation destination, specifically for the reason that it allows bearer shares, it will not willingly reform its corporation laws.
Compliance officers who do not consider BVI corporations are high risk, and allow their bank clients to open accounts, using them, may later find themselves accused of violating their own risk-based compliance program, even if they institute enhanced due diligence procedures. Do you really want to be the object of a finding of compliance malpractice ? A report like that will be a career ender.
Learn which jurisdictions still permit bearer share corporations, and make a conscious decision to reject them; otherwise, you must assume the risk of the consequences down the road, and that is not an effective compliance policy.
Contributed by Kenneth Rijock
Chronicles of Monte Friesner