24 March 2021

Fraud, Asset Tracing & Recovery 2021/2022 – British Virgin Islands (Commercial Dispute Resolution, CDR)

This guide explores the latest legislative, regulatory and enforcement developments in the British Virgin Islands, and provides expert analysis on industry-wide topics including cryptocurrency fraud, confiscation proceedings and the coronavirus pandemic.

Contents

Please click on the links below to jump to the relevant section:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Important Legal Framework and Statutory Underpinnings to Fraud, Asset Tracing and Recovery Schemes
  3. Case Triage: Main stages of fraud, asset tracing and recovery cases
  4. Parallel Proceedings: A combined civil and criminal approach
  5. Key Challenges
  6. Cross-Jurisdictional Mechanisms: Issues and solutions in recent times
  7. Technilogical Advancements and their Influence on Fraud, Asset Tracing and Recovery
  8. Recent Developments and Other Impacting Factors

1. Executive Summary

The BVI is a major offshore financial centre, particularly specialising in the formation of group parent companies, asset-holding special purpose vehicles and investment funds. The BVI's recognisable English law origins and progressive legal framework governing the administration of trusts has made it a popular jurisdiction for international private wealth structures. As described further below, the BVI is a truly international jurisdiction and its relationship to fraud, asset tracing and recovery must be seen in this context.

The key challenges and recent developments relate specifically to this internationalism. Most pertinently, in the last year, the BVI’s Black Swan jurisdiction for injunctions in support of foreign proceedings had its wings judicially clipped, then was quickly rehabilitated to fly again by the BVI legislature. 

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2. Important Legal Framework and Statutory Underpinnings to Fraud, Asset Tracing and Recovery Schemes

As a self-governing British Overseas Territory, the BVI’s legal system is rooted in English common law and equitable principles supplemented by legislation passed by the BVI's legislature and certain statutes and instruments passed by the UK Parliament and extended to the territory by Order in Council.

The BVI has a sophisticated High Court and Commercial Court, and a strong local appeal Court in the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, based in St Lucia. The final Court of appeal is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which sits in London and consists of justices of the UK Supreme Court.

The legal rights and remedies available in relation to fraud, asset tracing and recovery are broad and powerful, in a similar manner to other developed common law jurisdictions. The key BVI legislation regulating company law is principally the Business Companies Act 2004 (the BCA), the Insolvency Act 2003 (the Insolvency Act) and related enactments. Civil litigation procedure is governed by the ECSC Civil Procedure Rules 2000 and practice directions (EC CPR).

 

Injunctions and receivers

As a predominantly holding company jurisdiction, the preservation and protection of assets is vital as is the ability for litigants and creditors to enforce against them. At the early stages of a dispute, often a party suspects illegitimate dealings in the shares of BVI companies. EC CPR 49 allows any person claiming to be beneficially entitled to stock (shares) to apply for a Stop Notice or a Stop Order. In short, a Stop Notice requires a party on whom it is served to give notice of any proposed dealings with specified shares, and a Stop Order prevents certain steps being taken with respect to shares and/or monies held in Court. These are useful tools but only go so far. The need for further protection means that injunctions are an important and regular part of BVI legal practice.

The BVI Courts exercise a statutory jurisdiction pursuant to section 24 of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (Virgin Islands) Act (the Supreme Court Act) to grant injunctive relief where it is just and convenient to do so. This gives the BVI Court a broad and flexible jurisdiction similar to relief available in other common law jurisdictions.  The BVI Court may therefore, for example, grant freezing ("Mareva"), prohibitory, mandatory or proprietary injunctive relief on an interim or final basis. In appropriate circumstances, injunctions may be obtained on an ex parte and urgent basis.

In a welcome statutory development in early 2021, an amendment was made to the Supreme Court Act (incorporated as section 24A) to confirm that the BVI Court also has jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief in support of foreign proceedings, including against non-cause of action defendants (the so-called Black Swan jurisdiction, see further below).

The BVI Court may also grant injunctive relief in relation to any arbitral proceedings which have been or are to be commenced in or outside of the BVI pursuant to section 43 of the BVI Arbitration Act 2013. Indeed, relief in support of foreign arbitrations and the enforcement of arbitration awards is a major part of BVI litigation, and the BVI is a generally a pro-arbitration jurisdiction.  

For an additional level of protection, a claimant may also apply to Court for the appointment of a receiver. A receiver is a professional person (such as a qualified accountant or insolvency practitioner) appointed by the BVI Court to receive and deal with certain assets, usually in support of and in order to “police” a freezing injunction. The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal recently emphasised that receivers should only be appointed when it is just and convenient, and should not be ordered when the freezing injunction provides adequate protection. (Alexandra Vinogradova v (1) Elena Vinogradova, (2) Sergey Vinogradov (BVIHCMAP 2018/052).)

It is standard practice for the BVI Court to order a respondent to disclose information about its assets when it makes a freezing injunction or a receivership order, in order to allow the claimants and/or the receiver to police the orders.

As such, BVI injunctions have some teeth. A defendant may be found in contempt of Court if they are in breach, which may have grave consequences for the defence of a BVI claim, but only goes so far. If an individual defendant, or the director of a BVI company, is out of the jurisdiction then a BVI Court ordering committal may be of little concern.  

Further, and similarly, BVI injunctions and receivership orders may technically have "worldwide" effect, but the BVI Court does not seek to impose exorbitant, extra-territorial jurisdiction on persons not before the Court and regarding property abroad. The BVI Court has adopted the same "Babanaft" provisos in its injunction orders as the English Commercial Court (Babanaft International Co v Bassantne [1990] Ch. 13 at 44), out of respect for judicial comity. Steps may therefore be required in the local Courts before a BVI order becomes fully effective abroad.

 

Third party disclosure orders & letters of request

The BVI has long followed the equitable common law jurisdiction to grant disclosure orders. A “Norwich Pharmacal” order allows an applicant to obtain disclosure from a third party who is likely to have the relevant documents or information and who has become mixed up in wrongdoing committed against the applicant. Letters of request to foreign Courts to obtain evidence in support of BVI proceedings, and to the BVI Courts in support of foreign proceedings, are also an option in line with the Hague Evidence Convention.

 

Potential claims

As in the UK and other common law jurisdictions, there is no specific civil cause of action in “fraud” in the BVI. However, various claims are available in contract, tort, equity or otherwise depending in the circumstances such as deceit, fraudulent misrepresentation, conspiracy, dishonest assistance, knowing receipt, breach of fiduciary duty, restitution, bribery and secret commissions. The legal and equitable remedies of tracing and following are also available to claimants in order to seek the return of property and assets.

Section 184I of the BCA allows a shareholder of a company to apply to the BVI Court for relief from unfairly prejudicial conduct towards them in their capacity as a shareholder. The Court has broad powers to make such orders “as it thinks fit”, such as a share buyout, orders regulating the future conduct of the company, the payment of compensation, or even the appointment of a liquidator in extreme circumstances.

 

Remedies and enforcement

Wide remedies are available in the BVI, including damages, equitable compensation, mandatory and prohibitive injunctions, proprietary injunctions and property preservation orders, restitution and rectification remedies, declarations and other orders including as to status or transfer of ownership, valuation orders, property or share transfer or buy out orders, and those relating to the management of companies and personal or corporate insolvency proceedings or receiverships.

Modes of enforcement include charging orders, attachment orders, injunctions, a judgment summons, orders for seizure and sale of goods or property, and appointment of liquidators or receivers. However, as discussed below, fully remedial enforcement will often require action abroad. 

 

Insolvency regime

It is also common for claimants to take advantage of the BVI's corporate insolvency legislation as part of an asset recovery strategy in fraud cases. The BVI's Insolvency Act includes a suite of powers and remedies available to liquidators of a BVI company, which can provide a very powerful basis to investigate and recover assets, both within the BVI and internationally. There are a number of BVI insolvency practitioners who are very experienced in international asset tracing matters. As discussed below, co-operation with foreign Courts and insolvency practitioners is vital.

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3. Case Triage: Main stages of fraud, asset tracing and recovery cases

 

Fraud in general

The main stages of BVI fraud, asset tracing and recovery cases will be familiar to civil litigators worldwide. Common BVI scenarios are shareholder disputes, where one shareholder has sought to push out the other with sharp elbows, and/or one shareholder claims the other has never contributed to the business or does not own the shares, and/or the situation where one party in a BVI company structure has transferred away valuable assets to another separate structure. In short, often a party will allege that he or she used to own an asset, that he or she has been wronged by a fraudster, and that urgent BVI legal action is required to ensure that justice prevails and the asset is returned.  

There may be various options available. The BVI's insolvency regime may provide a solution (see below). But first we consider the usual course of action, by way of proceedings under the EC CPR.  

 

Pre-action – gathering the evidence

The initial stage for a BVI legal practitioner is to consider forensic, ethical and practical issues. As noted above, “fraud” claims may include a multitude of actions, all with different tests, different mental states, and different defences. What is the background and commercial rational of a business relationship going back years? What is the evidence of wrongdoing? Is there enough evidence to plead dishonesty? These questions require a lot of fact finding and careful analysis. One must have solid evidence to plead fraud.

Much of this initial work is often carried out with the assistance of foreign lawyers and representatives. The ultimate client will almost certainly live abroad, and may not speak English. It is common for BVI company structures to have subsidiary companies in other jurisdictions (such as Cyprus), and the underlying asset will often be located elsewhere (a Chinese power station, or Russian coal mine, for instance). Legal steps may already have been taken and proceedings instigated in other jurisdictions, so questions of the appropriate forum and avoiding parallel proceedings may arise early on.

 

Injunctions

At this juncture, it may be necessary to apply for a Norwich Pharmacal order, especially if fraud is suspected but there is currently not enough evidence. For instance, it is common to seek a disclosure order against the “registered agent” of a BVI company in order to obtain information about the beneficial ownership, shareholding, directors, management and (to some extent) business of companies which appear to be involved in a fraud (see UVW v XYZ (BVIHC (COM) 2016/108). Such disclosure, in particular identifying wrongs and wrongdoers, can help form the case for fraud claims and injunctions in the BVI, and also assist with substantive legal proceedings in other jurisdictions.  

If proceedings are afoot in other jurisdictions, then it may be appropriate to apply for injunctive relief in support of foreign proceedings. The BVI Court will first consider whether the applicable test is met (as if the proceedings had been commenced in the BVI) and, second, whether it is expedient to grant the relief sought. In doing so, the BVI Court will consider whether the injunction would have some utility which is related to and ancillary to the foreign proceedings. It will also take into account the question of whether the BVI Court has power to enforce its order if disobeyed abroad.  

If substantive proceedings are required in the BVI, then the next step is to plead the claims, issue the claim and then apply for an injunction in support of those proceedings (either before or after service depending on the risk of tipping off). The principles applicable to the granting of an injunction will be familiar to most common law jurisdictions. The Court will grant a freezing injunction where the applicant has a good arguable case on the merits of its underlying claim and there is a real risk of dissipation of assets against which a judgment may be enforced. Slightly different equitable principles apply in the context of "proprietary" freezing injunctions, where the applicant claims an ownership right over assets in the hands of the respondent, but the BVI Courts will be swift to grant such relief in appropriate circumstances, and such injunctions can be a particularly effective remedy in trust disputes. As noted above, disclosure orders and the appointment of receivers may help to police such injunctions.

 

The steps to trial

At this stage, relevant assets may be relatively well secured. However, often in cases of fraud and asset tracing a lot more work is required to achieve justice.

The BVI legal system is relatively quick and efficient. Most trials come on within a year of issuing proceedings, and some may be “expedited” to trial in a shorter time period or determined on narrowed “preliminary issues” or determined summarily if the defence has no prospect of success. However, fraud claims are often complicated and involve voluminous documents and the resolution of conflicting evidence. They are rarely concluded on an expedited basis. Indeed, high value cases with numerous parties and interlocutory applications, such as multi-billion dollar Oligarch battles, may take years to be determined, particularly where appeals against interlocutory orders are pursued to the highest level. This is a key challenge in the BVI, as in other jurisdictions.

 

Interlocutory battles

Various interlocutory battles are often fought before the parties get to trial. Permission from the BVI Court is required to serve claims and injunctions on foreign defendants (Part 7 of the EC CPR, and Nilon Ltd & Another v Royal Westminster Investments SA and others [2011] UKPC 6). Due to the international nature of fraud cases involving multiple jurisdictions, often defendants will seek to set aside service and challenge jurisdiction on the basis that the BVI is not the appropriate forum for the trial of the claim (on the basis of the principles in Spiliada Maritime Corp v Cansulex Ltd [1987] AC 460, see further below). Depending on the location of a defendant, service may need to be effected under the Hague Service Convention via diplomatic channels, which takes time. Further, some defendants try to evade service. These delays are often unavoidable when dealing with fraudsters out of the jurisdiction and it may be necessary to seek alternate service. 

Assuming that the claim proceeds, statements of case are exchanged by the parties, experts instructed and reports exchanged (on matters of foreign law, or forgery, for instance), disclosure takes place, and witness statements exchanged by witnesses of fact. Various hearings may take place prior to trial, dealing with issues such as specific disclosure applications, directions, and even contempt of Court if injunctions are breached. It is unusual for fraud cases to proceed to trial without various skirmishes along the way, including appeals of certain interlocutory issues. However, certain interim applications may bring proceedings to an early conclusion, for example an application for security for costs.

 

Trial and enforcement

Trial takes place in the ordinary adversarial manner, overseen by a single judge. The trial may take days or weeks depending on the number of documents, legal issues, witnesses and experts. The judge will then make a decision on the facts and the law and deliver judgment. Rights to appeal may lie to the Court of Appeal, and in turn, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Final determination of the claim can take some time.  

At the end of a fraud trial, the ultimate remedy may be simple. For instance, in the case of a dispute over shares, rectification of the register of members of a BVI company under section 43 of the BCA allows the name of the true owner of shares to be entered. That may be enough. However, in many cases, following judgment a whole new battle begins, seeking enforcement of the judgment abroad, seeking payment of damages, appointing liquidators, tracing and following assets into other jurisdictions, and initiating further proceedings abroad. These further steps and difficulties are often unavoidable when the underlying assets and wrongdoers are located elsewhere. 

 

The Insolvency Act – Liquidation

There can, on occasion, be a quicker route. As noted above, rather than pursuing fraud claims in the BVI Court, it may be possible to utilise the BVI's insolvency regime. In the fraud and asset tracing context, the starting point is to identify a BVI company which is indebted to the claimant, for example pursuant to an unsatisfied debt, judgment or arbitral award. That will often provide a basis to appoint a liquidator on insolvency grounds, provided that the debt is not disputed on substantive grounds.

Once appointed, the liquidator assumes control of the company and its assets, and has broad powers under the Insolvency Act to investigate the company's affairs, and to collect in and take control of the company's assets. As such, if the company holds valuable assets, such as real property, shares, or high value moveable assets such as aeroplanes or yachts, the liquidator will be able to take control of those assets and sell them.

The Insolvency Act gives liquidators strong powers of investigation, and crucially, a liquidator can pursue a wide range of claims, either in their own name or in the name of the company, in order to seek to recover assets for distribution to creditors. These claims fall into the following broad categories. First, claims vesting in the company, for example the right to recover sums due from debtors, or any other cause of action (for example in contract or tort). Secondly, claims against former directors, including claims for misfeasance, insolvent trading, and fraudulent trading. Thirdly, claims in relation to voidable transactions, including claims relating to unfair preferences and transactions at an undervalue. Such claims can be particularly effective in an asset tracing context where a company has transferred assets prior to liquidation in an attempt to render itself judgment proof, as the BVI Court has a broad discretion as to the relief it may order.

In cases of urgency, for example if the company's assets are in jeopardy, a creditor can apply on an urgent, ex parte basis for the appointment of a provisional liquidator. This enables the immediate appointment of provisional liquidators pending the final determination of an application for full liquidators, who can take control of the company and take steps to prevent the dissipation of assets. 

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4. Parallel Proceedings: A combined civil and criminal approach

It is incredibly rare for the BVI criminal Courts to be involved in the same matters as the BVI civil Courts by way of parallel proceedings or otherwise. This is largely because those most interested in pursuing proceedings are usually more interested in available civil recoveries and remedies, and generally the relevant frauds are international, any criminal offences take place abroad, the wrongdoers are resident abroad, and the relevant assets are located abroad. Further, the BVI civil Courts have extensive powers akin to criminal sanction, such as powers in relation to contempt of Court for breaches of their orders such as freezing injunctions, including sequestration and committal orders in extreme cases.  

In theory, a private party wronged by a fraud can initiate a private prosecution in the BVI, and then the Director of Public Prosecution will consider whether to take over and continue such a prosecution as a public prosecution. However, for the reasons given above, in most cases a private party would be better off initiating BVI civil proceedings, or liaising with BVI legal practitioners to work with foreign lawyers and obtain justice elsewhere, particularly where the criminal courts of another jurisdiction may increase available remedies or recoveries. Further, as in most jurisdictions, there is a danger that if parallel civil and criminal proceedings are instigated, then the civil claim may be stayed pending the outcome of the criminal claim, and the claimant would face a lengthy delay and also the prospect of losing control of the case. There is also the potential risk of criminal proceedings failing due to the higher standard of proof applicable, and that outcome then being used to stymie civil action.

That said, it is important to note that the BVI is a highly regulated offshore financial centre, overseen by agencies such as the Financial Investigation Agency (the FIA) and the Financial Services Commission (the FSC). The FIA has responsibility for the investigation and receipt of disclosures made in relation to money laundering. Further, the FSC investigates contraventions of the BVI’s FSC Act by all regulated entities in the BVI, along with monitoring international financial sanctions measures. Accordingly, in cases of serious fraud, money laundering and sanctions, BVI legal practitioners may be obliged to liaise with the FSC and FIA, and potentially other international agencies.

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5. Key Challenges

As Lord MacNaughten once put it in the English Courts, “Fraud is infinite in variety” (Reddaway v. Banham (1896)). This quote pre-dated the establishment of the BVI as an offshore financial centre by nearly a century, but the challenges remain the same. Further, the boundless ability of dishonest people to perpetuate fraud is complicated further by globalisation and company structures involving various jurisdictions.   

The BVI is a highly regulated financial centre, but it is inherently international. The key challenges therefore come out of internationalism and multi-jurisdictional relationships, along with of course, technological advances which can be used by fraudsters to their advantage, or against them. The need for effective cross-jurisdictional mechanisms is especially topical in the BVI at the moment.

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6. Cross-Jurisdictional Mechanisms: Issues and solutions in recent times

 

Black Swan jurisdiction

The BVI Commercial Court's decision in Black Swan Investments v. Harvest View (2010) was viewed as a welcome development by many in the BVI. In that decision, the BVI Court sought to fill a legislative void to establish the Court's jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief in support of foreign proceedings. The Black Swan jurisdiction, as it came to be known, was applied on numerous occasions by the BVI Court for many years, until the Court of Appeal's decision in Broad Idea International Ltd & Anr Convoy Collateral Ltd in May 2020. In that judgment, the Court of Appeal overturned the reasoning in Black Swan, finding that, absent statutory provision, the BVI Court had no jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief in the absence of substantive proceedings in the BVI.

Obviously, for an offshore jurisdiction such as the BVI, the Court of Appeal's decision in Broad Idea caused a certain degree of concern, particularly for those who had developed a certain degree of pride for the judicial ingenuity demonstrated by the BVI Court in Black Swan. Fortunately, it was not long before legislative proposals were made and, in January 2021, the BVI legislature introduced section 24A of the Supreme Court Act granting the BVI Court the necessary jurisdiction on a statutory footing, including against non-cause of action (or "Chabra") respondents. The section also includes confirmation of the Court's jurisdiction to grant Norwich Pharmacal relief in support of foreign proceedings (which had also been the subject of more recent, but no less welcome, judicial ingenuity).

At the time of writing (February 2021), the Court of Appeal's decision in Convoy Collateral Ltd v Broad Idea International Ltd & Anr. has been referred to and heard in the Privy Council, and judgment is awaited. Although the BVI Court's jurisdiction to grant such relief cannot now be in doubt, as a result of the statutory amendment, that decision of the Privy Council will no doubt provide essential guidance on the applicability of the relevant principles to the exercise of that jurisdiction.

 

Substantive jurisdiction and forum conveniens

The test for forum conveniens is often difficult to apply in the context of international fraud committed through offshore companies in multiple jurisdictions. In recent years there has perhaps been a restrictive approach to jurisdiction taken by the BVI Courts at first instance and on appeal. However, the Privy Council recently handed down judgment in the long-running jurisdiction challenge of JSC MCC Eurochem & anr v Livingtson & ors [2020] UKPC 31 where it has again re-affirmed the application of the Spiliada test. In so doing, it overturned the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal’s decision that the BVI Commercial Court did not have jurisdiction to hear a claim against companies based in the BVI and elsewhere, which had received bribes in the context of an alleged international bribery scheme.

The Court of Appeal’s decision had been criticised by some commentators in limiting the BVI Court's ability to address cross-border frauds involving BVI entities, especially when the alternative forum (such as Russia) would not allow equivalent tracing or proprietary claims. It will be interesting to see the effect of the recent Privy Council decision on future forum challenges in the BVI Courts.  

 

Cross border insolvency

Liquidators appointed by the BVI court are usually able to seek recognition and/or assistance from the courts of other jurisdictions. That can provide a useful basis to co-ordinate a multi-jurisdictional asset recovery exercise, particularly where a BVI company holds assets in other jurisdictions, as is routinely the case. Foreign insolvency office-holders can also apply for assistance from the BVI court, which may include orders to preserve assets within the jurisdiction or, crucially, provide access to information or documents held in the BVI. 

Assistance may be available on a limited basis under the common law, applying the principles of modified universalism, or, to insolvency office holders from certain specific countries, under Part XIX of the Insolvency Act 2003. The statutory remedies available under Part XIX are helpful but not as broad as they might be. Provisions based on the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency 1997, allowing increased efficient co-operation between the BVI Courts, foreign insolvency office-holders, and designated foreign countries were incorporated into the Insolvency Act. However, they are not currently in force and as such there is not currently a broader concept of Model Law "recognition" for foreign office-holders in the BVI.

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7. Technilogical Advancements and their Influence on Fraud, Asset Tracing and Recovery

 

E-litigation and remote trials

As in other sophisticated jurisdictions, BVI legal practitioners, accountants and insolvency practitioners are all focused on using the latest technology to investigate fraud, carry out disclosure exercises and trace assets. Further, the BVI Courts have been nimble in recent years to react to disaster and change. Following the devastation of Hurricane Irma in September 2017, the Courts quickly moved to temporary electronic filing and remote hearings. Following this success, a sophisticated E-Litigation Portal was brought into play in 2018, essentially replacing all paper filings and introducing online management of cases. Then in 2020, the BVI was quick to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions with minimal disruptions. After a short hiatus, when anything other than urgent hearings were put off, the High Court and Commercial Court began operating remotely almost as normal and have since conducted all hearings, including urgent injunction hearings and full trials by video link with appearances of counsel and witnesses from within the Territory and outside it.  

 

Cryptocurrency

The BVI regulator, the FSC, has recognised crypto-focussed funds and the BVI government has indicated a crypto-friendly approach in the past few years, which has led to the establishment of such businesses in the BVI, including several major crypto exchanges. However, to date, there is no legislation relating to initial coin offerings and initial token offerings, or to cryptocurrency more generally. Such legislation is expected in the future, but in the meantime the existing regulatory framework, relating to legal tender for instance, has to suffice, which was drafted years ago with no contemplation of cryptocurrency. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the Courts if, as appears likely, BVI crypto businesses are involved in fraud and asset tracing cases. The BVI Courts are likely to apply the reasoning adopted by the English Courts in recent decisions relating to issues over ownership, situs etc of crypto assets.

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8. Recent Developments and Other Impacting Factors

The key recent developments discussed above all relate to the ability of the BVI Courts to operate effectively and efficiently in light of increasingly international fraud and the inter-relation with other jurisdictions. On that note, various amendments to the EC CPR are under consideration following the establishment of a Rules Review Committee in 2019. Amendments under consideration include third party disclosure orders and whether to remove the requirement for permission to serve a claim out of the jurisdiction. It may be that this requirement under part 7 of the EC CPR will be dispensed with, subject to the ability of a defendant to apply to set aside such service. 

In the past year, the BVI Commercial Court handed down its first reasoned judgment on third party litigation funding (In the Matter of Exential Investments Inc (in Liquidation)). Following this judgment, the BVI appears to be “open for business” to professional funders looking to fund meritorious litigation and liquidations for a commercial return. This is likely to increase the already growing appetite among litigation funders to fund BVI liquidations and litigation, and to encourage creditors, liquidators and litigants to explore funding options. This should be seen as a welcome development for those affected by fraud.

Otherwise, topical issues in the BVI continue to be economic substance, following the BVI Economic Substance (Companies and Partnerships) Act coming into force in 2018, and beneficial ownership registers, following the enactment of the BVI Ownership Secure Search System Act in 2017, which makes certain information regarding BVI companies privately available to UK law enforcement agencies on request. Whether or not a fully public register of beneficial interests of BVI companies should be in place is a live and controversial political and economic issue.  

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An original version of this briefing was published in CDR Fraud, Asset Tracing and Recovery 2021.

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