BVI Hidden Trap

The British Virgin Islands are a most attractive destination for those seeking to hide assets, launder money or evade taxes. In addition to total confidentiality and flexible incorporation procedures, BVI makes only minimal demands for the disclosure of corporate information.

The Company Registrar requires only a Memorandum and Articles of Association. From these the public and media can glean the form and type of a company, how much capital it has, and the name and the address of its registered agent. But you likely won’t get a clue about who is really behind the company.

Except, sometimes, rarely, owners do file a Register of Directors, Members (Shareholders) and Mortgages and Charges. And that is what we were counting on when we set out on a mission to get as many BVI records as we could.

We discovered that even the system for requesting company information is rigged in favor of secrecy.

We downloaded an official three-page request form from the BVI Registrar of Corporate Affairs, filled it out and provided credit card information to pay a $25 fee. To our surprise, we only had to wait a weekend to get a response, but it turned out we had gotten only the official info –¬†date of incorporation, authorized capital, first and current registered agent and office.

We did not give up. We wrote the Registrar asking for at least the actual Memorandum and Articles of Association.¬† The official form doesn’t get you that, we were told, you have to ask specifically and pay another $1 a page.

But how?

Two of the three pages of the official request form are really only about payment method. Nowhere is there a note or space to list the documents you want. You should look for the area stated “Additional Notes,” they said.

We did find it eventually. It was placed just above the signature line and below the credit card information.

But now we know.

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