THE BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND, THE CHANNEL ISLANDS, AND MAURITIUS are all commonly tied together with one business; offshore banking and finance. As the sector evolves and with the proliferation of Special Economic Zones, (or free zones as they are more commonly referred to) offshore doesn’t even have to embody its literal definition – making investor options plentiful. This sector has been marred with the Panama Papers scandal casting a shadow over the offshore finance industry. Consequently, the offshore business is perceived as a mucky business facilitating the accumulation of wealth through the dark arts. That said, it doesn’t mean there aren’t safe, secure, and ethical options out there for investors and HNWIs from the Global Indian Community. Experienced practitioners in the sector are cognizant of the significant impact of regulation; too much and it becomes a quagmire of red tape, too little and it becomes open to abuse. St. Lucia is navigating this fine line through the Financial Service Regulatory Authority (FSRA) which became fully operational in 2014. The vision is to become a world class financial services regulator with a mission to maintain the integrity of the Financial Sector through efficient and effective administration of the financial sector laws and regulations and the application of best international practice and standards. The important factor is that the FSRA does not fall into the trap of simply paying lip service to the notion of being ethical and having a dynamic regulatory environment. Those moving money, international regulators and indeed journalists want to see tangible evidence that this is being enforced, even Joe Public wants reassurance in the wake of the Mossack Fonseca’s debacle. Regional cooperation has been at the forefront of the agenda for the FSRA, work has been carried out with the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, and the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre among others. As far back as November 2015 St. Lucia signed an Inter- Governmental Agreement with the United States of America, which solidified Saint Lucia’s commitment in complying with global standards in the exchange of tax information. Additionally, Saint Lucia has cooperated fully with the Global Forum in the quest for transparency and Exchange of Information for tax purposes. This was complemented by a raft of training on Risk Based Supervision, Basel II Capital Adequacy, and Anti-Money Laundering Risk Assessment. Up to the year-end of March 2016 the FSRA’s staff were involved in 13 programs or courses which ranged from online, to being held in the Caribbean, the US, and the UK. What this signifies is an understanding that to reach its goal of becoming truly world class, a global, holistic, approach is necessary to shine a light on the shadowy corners and close those much-abused loopholes. As of March 2016 the FSRA has licensed 22 Registered Agents (RAs) and Registered Trustees (RTs) who provide clients with international representation regarding financial services. They also act as facilitators for those wishing to set up their business, providing registered offices, directors, officers, and nominee shareholders. This work includes determining the identity of clients through diligent background checks to avoid money laundering and money being diverted for illegal use. The 22 registered companies function as working as intermediaries between the FSRA and the International Business Companies (IBCs) to observe integrity, legality, and ethical conduct of business through monitoring the financial transactions carried out once registered. Again, this is all checking out; the triumvirate of stakeholders, investors, and journalists all want to see systematic controls and supervision to ensure the possibility for misconduct is removed. In 2014 the FSRA redesigned its on-site inspection program to hone in on evaluating whether the procedures in place are sufficient for identifying the person(s) that a transaction is being undertaken for. This culminated in inspections for 89% of all IBCs registered. It really is a case of deeds, not words. St. Lucia now has 3,122 registered IBC’s which may seem modest, but that equates to roughly 1 IBC per 60 citizens; showing the scale of the offshore sector for the island nation. In the FSRA’s bid to become a world class finance regulator there is still work to do, particularly given the nature of an ever-evolving global finance industry. The three years of operations have been fruitful in implementing the groundwork and fundamentals that will allow the FSRA to achieve true transparency and confidence in order to let capital flow “St. Lucia now has 3,122 registered IBC’s which may seem modest, but that equates to roughly 1 IBC per 60 citizens; showing the scale of the offshore sector for the island nation

FROM THE PANAMA PAPERS TO THE PARADISE PAPERS, “OFFSHORE” HAS HIT THE HEADLINES WORLDWIDE. THE FACT REMAINS IT IS STILL A TIME TESTED AND IMPORTANTLY, LEGAL PRACTICE. THE POTENTIAL FOR PROGRESS IN A COUNTRY READY FOR OPPORTUNITY   

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