The British Virgin Islands are a group of approximately 40 islands and islets, of which about 20 have permanent residents, situated in the Eastern Caribbean, 60 miles east of Puerto Rico and 180 miles north west of Antigua. The two largest islands are Tortola and Virgin Gorda. Road Town, the capital, is located in Tortola.
It is reported that Christopher Columbus sighted the islands on his second expedition in 1493. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of islands and cays he christened the islands “Las Once Mil Virgienes” - in honour of St. Ursula and the 11,000 maidens who sacrificed themselves in 4th Century Cologne. St. Ursula is the national symbol of the British Virgin Islands today.
Today the British Virgin Islands (the “Territory”) are a British Overseas Territory. The 2007 Constitution gives executive and legislative power to the Governor, the Cabinet and House of Assembly. The Governor is Her Majesty's representative and, under the Constitution, is responsible for external affairs, defence, the judicial and legal departments of government, internal security and the civil service. On other matters, the Governor is normally bound to act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet, which comprises the Governor as Chairman, the Premier, four other ministers and the Attorney-General as an ex-officio member. The House of Assembly consists of thirteen elected members, one from each of nine electoral districts and four ‘at large’ members.
The judicial system is under the direction of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, which includes the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal. The judicial system is based on English law and the ultimate appellate court is the Privy Council in London.
In 1959 the United States dollar was introduced as legal tender in the Territory and in 1967 was adopted as the sole legal currency. There is no exchange control or restriction on the movement of funds into and out of the Territory or on their conversion into other currencies. The most significant sectors of the economy are financial services and tourism.
The British Virgin Islands Advantage since the introduction of the International Business Companies Act in 1984, successive governments have made significant progress in developing the British Virgin Islands as an international financial services centre. For those who wish to take advantage of the attractive legal framework and competitive advantage, the British Virgin Islands offers the following:
- Political and economic stability
- Strong and stable currency (US Dollar)
- No exchange controls
- Low direct taxation with tax exemptions for certain classes of companies and types of business activity
- No capital gains, gift or wealth taxes and no death duties
- A legal system based on English law; freedom from restrictions and over regulation
- An excellent pool of professional service providers
- Good communications worldwide.
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