Jurisdiction of the month: St. Vincent

2016 02 02 | Category: News

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Geography, Population, Languages

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines consists of a group of 18 small islands in the Windward Islands of the Eastern Caribbean. St. Vincent, the main island is 29 km long and 18 km wide, and is located 161 km west of Barbados. The Grenadines, a chain of nearly 600 islets with a total area of only 27 sq km, extend for 96 km between St. Vincent and Grenada. The St. Vincent is mountainous and densely forested, and is dominated by the active volcano Mount Soufrière. The climate is tropical, with little seasonal temperature variation.

The capital of St. Vincent is Kingstown, which has a natural deep-water harbour. The population is approximately 107,000. People are defined as “Vincentians” and comprise a harmonious blend of people of Carib, African, Portuguese, Scottish, Irish, and East Indian descendants, with newer immigrants from the Middle East and Asia, France, Italy, England, Canada and the USA.

The official language of St. Vincent is English. French and Spanish are also widely taught on the Island and there are many bi-lingual inhabitants.

Historical Reference, Political Structure and Law

St. Vincent was first settled around 5000 BC by the Ciboney, then by the Arawaks and the Caribs. Carib Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St. Vincent until the 18th century. First Africans reached St. Vincent in 1675. Enslaved Africans (shipwrecked or seeking refuge in mainland St. Vincent) intermarried with the Caribs and became known as Garifuna or Black Caribs whose descendants live on the island today.

From 1763 until independence, St. Vincent passed through various stages of colonial status under the British. On October 27th, 1969 it was granted associate statehood status giving it complete control over its internal affairs. The multi–island State became independent on the 27 October 1979.

Now St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy within the British Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II of the UK remains as head of state and is represented on the island by a governor general, an office with mostly ceremonial functions. Control of the government rests with the prime minister and the cabinet.

The legal system is based on the English Common Law, but the country has developed its own set of statutory provisions especially in the area of trusts, banking and international finance.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a full member of the British Commonwealth, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the International Labour Organization, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

Economy and Infrastructure

The prime income earner in St. Vincent is tourism, and agriculture, which moved from dependence on sugar to dependence on bananas, generally comes in second. The financial services sector is also a prominent part of the investment development strategy of the country.

St. Vincent has an excellent communications system and banking infrastructure. It also prides a high class postal and courier services.

The local currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$) which is linked to the US$ at an exchange rate of 2.7 EC$ to 1 US$. US dollar, the British pound sterling and the Canadian dollar are also widely used.

The Offshore Finance Authority (now renamed the International Financial Services Authority) was created by Parliament to institute a new system to manage, direct, control and supervise the offshore financial services industry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The sector now seems to be growing in a stable fashion. Key sectors are banking, trusts, insurance and mutual funds.

As a result of substantive legislative and administrative review over the past two years, St. Vincent now has an anti money- laundering regime that is on a par with the highest of international standards.

Company Incorporation

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. This is one of the strongest confidentiality acts in the world and protects against disclosure of confidential information.

The IBC Act 1996 facilitates minimal reporting requirements as well as simple and fast incorporation procedures. The publicly filed articles of incorporation contain a minimum of information including the name of the company, the Registered Agent, the currency of the capital and authorized capital, type of shares.

Name of company may be in any language. Any designation or abbreviation such as “Societe Anonyme”, “SA”, “Sàrl”, “Limited”, “GmbH”, “NV”, etc may be used to imply limited liability. 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 with similar meaning.

There are no requirements with regard to minimal share capital. Shares can be issued in any currency. Shares may have any rights, privileges and limitations agreed in statutes. Bearer shares are allowed.

At least one shareholder and one director are required. If there is more than one shareholder, at least two directors are required. Both shareholders and directors may be individuals as well as corporations. Directors may be of any nationality and may reside anywhere. Nominee shareholders and directors are available. There is no requirement to disclose details of beneficial owners, directors or officers to any registry or body. Company Secretary is not required.

An annual meeting of the Board of Directors is required. However, there are no limitations on where or how meetings may be held, thus it may be conducted by telephone anywhere in the world, if desired. The company must maintain a Registered Office address within St. Vincent and must also appoint a local Registered Agent.

Foreign companies may transfer domicile out of the jurisdiction or back into St. Vincent.

Annual Taxation

Fees are laid down by the International Business Companies Amendment Regulations 2003.

By virtue of the International Business Companies Act 1996 an IBC in St. Vincent is exempt from all taxes for 25 years from the date of incorporation. An IBC in is not subject to double tax treaties and exchange controls.

There is no requirement for annual return, accounts or audited reports to be presented to the authorities thus allowing for total confidentiality of financial affairs.

EditorJurisdiction of the month: St. Vincent