Asset Protection in St Vincent: a Caribbean Tax Haven

Asset Protection
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an independent English speaking nation, located in the Eastern Caribbean. In 1996 there were comprehensive legislative changes to its IBC Act, bringing St. Vincent to the forefront of the world's offshore financial centres as one of the safest and most private jurisdictions.

These legislative changes concentrated on two specific policies in St. Vincent's approach to offshore financial law: ultimate privacy and maximum asset protection. These policies are also reinforced in the new offshore finance laws proclaimed in 1997 and 1998.

IBC's incorporated in St. Vincent are completely free of all taxes for a period of 25 years. There is no requirement to disclose the beneficial owner of the IBC and bearer shares are allowed. There are no exchange controls. There are no tax information exchange treaties with any country.

There is no requirement for books or audited reports to be presented to any authority.

St. Vincent is an independent sovereign nation and will therefore not be affected by the impending UK/EU legislation impacting the British Dependant Territories.

The Confidential Relationships Preservation (International Finance) Act, 1996 is a further expression of the privacy theme of the new legislative policy. This law elevates the protection of professional confidential relationships and information to a matter of state "public policy".

The Government has reaffirmed that the right to privacy in financial affairs is a basic right of offshore companies and financial institutions in St. Vincent and that it will not help other governments collect their taxes, directly or under the guise of investigations or prosecutions of other purported offences.

The International Business Companies Act, 1996 contains provisions assuring that the privacy of persons will be protected. These provisions reduce the amount of information to be contained in government registers and curtails the right of the public to inspect the registers.

To make this perfectly clear the "Confidential Relationships Preservation (International Finance) Act, 1996 specifically says "The Court hearing an application for directions under this section shall not allow the giving in evidence of confidential information in connection with the enforcement or prosecution, of the civil or criminal revenue or tax laws of another state, territory or other political jurisdiction".

Offshore Legislation
Offshore Companies in St. Vincent are governed by the International Business Companies Act, 1996 and their privacy is protected by the Confidential Relationships Preservation (International Finance) Act, 1996.

The legislation is simple and straightforward, allowing a great deal of flexibility in the design of corporate structures suiting the client's needs. In particular the Act allows the Articles to set out any provisions not expressly prohibited by the Act.

The company may use any of the following names:

"Limited", "Corporation", "Incorporated", "Societe Anonyme", "Sociedad Anonima", "Company", "Limitada", "Societe par actions" or "Aktiengesellschaft" or the abbreviation "Ltd", "Corp", "Inc." "A/S", "AG", "N.V", "B.V.", GmbH", "S.A." or any other words or abbreviations which signify limited liability and which are approved by the Registrar.

The IBC must have at least one Director. If there is more than one shareholder, it must have at least two Directors. Directors may be individuals or may be Corporations. Directors may be of any nationality and may reside anywhere. (Nominee Directors may be used and are provided at no extra cost).

An annual meeting of the Board of Directors is required. This meeting however, may be held anywhere and may be by telephone or internet, if desired.

There is no requirement for an annual meeting of shareholders. Shareholders' meetings may be conducted by telephone or internet.

The following names may not be used, without a licence or special permission:

"Assurance", "Bank", "Building Society", "Chamber of Commerce", "Chartered", "Co-operative", "Imperial", "Insurance", "Municipal", "Royal", "Trust Company", "Trustee Company", or a word conveying a similar meaning.

General Information on St. Vincent & The Grenadines

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an English speaking independent nation in the Windward Islands of the Eastern Caribbean. St. Vincent, the largest island, is a densely green and mountainous island with a population of about 107,000. The capital city is Kingstown. St. Vincent and the Grenadines are among the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean, with the luxurious homes of many famous people.

The Grenadines are a chain of islands stretching from St. Vincent in the north to Grenada in the south. The northernmost island is Bequia, with its Admiralty Bay visited by yachtsmen from around the world.

St. Vincent has an excellent communications system with an undersea fibre optic cable linking it to the world. Direct dial, facsimile, internet and computer modem facilities are available. There are also excellent postal and courier services.

St. Vincent does not have an international jet airport. There are turbo prop aircraft serving the island, with international connections through Grenada, Barbados, Antigua and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Government
St. Vincent and the Grenadines became independent on 27 October, 1979. The system of government is a parliamentary democracy on the Westminster (UK) style.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the British Commonwealth with a Governor General appointed by Queen Elizabeth II of the UK. There is universal suffrage for all persons 18 years of age and over. The Prime Minister is the leader of the governing party and, together with his cabinet, forms the executive branch of the government.

The legislative branch is the House of Assembly consisting of 21 seats; 15 elected representatives and 6 appointed senators. Members are elected by popular vote to serve five year terms.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the British Commonwealth, the United Nations, Caricom and other international organizations.

Legal System
The legal system is based on English Common Law. Legislation governing offshore companies is contained in the International Business Companies Act, 1996.

Monetary Systems & Echange Controls

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. The local currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar which is pegged to the US dollar (US 1$ equals EC $2.6882). US currency is also widely used and is acceptable everywhere.

There are no exchange controls on the monetary transactions of St. Vincent offshore companies. Funds can be freely moved on and off the island.