Premier's Office
Ministry of Financial Services, Labour and Trade
Release Date:
Wednesday, 6 March 2024 - 8:49am

Statement By The Honourable Lorna Smith, Obe

Deputy Premier And Minister For Financial Services, Labour And Trade

Ninth Sitting Of The First Session Of The Fifth House Of Assembly

Of The Virgin Islands




The Publication of Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) of the Virgin Islands


Madam Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the Mutual Evaluation Report of the Virgin Islands by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, which was published last week.

As Members of the House will have seen, the Government of the Virgin Islands has welcomed the Report’s publication. We take the comments made incredibly seriously and we are committed to rigorously implementing its recommendations, as we have laid out in our National Action Plan, also published last week. Resources have been prioritised to support this work and I can confirm that we have already started to address the priority recommendations the Report highlights. This implementation process will be observed by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force through its follow-up process.

I urge the continued collaboration and support of both the Opposition and His Excellency the Governor as we address the vital recommendations and implement the Action Plan. This bipartisan approach is crucial to ensure the success of these efforts and is deeply appreciated by the private sector, especially the business and financial services industry. Their continued engagement, together with our commitment to meeting international standards, will be instrumental in gaining continued recognition from external institutions.

Madam Speaker, we are all very well aware of the standing of the Virgin Islands as a major international finance centre. The monies which flow from that provide the greater part of government revenues and they are key to our ability to secure a sustainable future for all of us.

However, the foundation of that success has always been a robust and effective regulatory regime.

Since 1999, when the Virgin Islands introduced the first iteration of the Anti-Money Laundering Code of Practice, we have bolstered our oversight, including improving legislative provisions and guidance, based on experience, as international standards have evolved. 

Madam Speaker, we have never wavered in our commitment to continuously strengthen our regulatory regime and its enforcement units to keep out financial crime. Following the assessment undertaken by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force after its visit in March 2023, it is clear that an even greater effort must be made.

We know that full and effective implementation of global standards is vital if we are to protect our economy, as well as the international system. All of those engaged in business and financial services in the Virgin Islands, whether in the public or private sector, recognise that their role is critical in the fight against illicit financial flows. The Virgin Islands must always be a hostile environment for illegitimate financial activity.

Madam Speaker, I attended the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force Plenary in November 2023, as a member of the delegation led by the Honourable Attorney General. I was glad to be there and my presence was recognised as an essential signal of the high level commitment by the Government of the Virgin Islands to address the issues raised, our respect for the CFATF and our responsibilities as a founding member of the CFATF.

I made it clear then and now that our aim is to attract reputable business only. The partnership between ourselves, our competent authorities, law enforcement agencies and the private sector, to recognise and address the risks we face is vital. I can promise the House that we will work together even more closely to mitigate those risks and successfully pursue the prosecution of financial crime.

Finally, Madam Speaker, we are on a journey, and it is clear that we have more to do. But be in no doubt that we are determined to continue to demonstrate leadership in these matters and we will keep the people of the Virgin Islands as well as the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force updated on our progress.

Thank you. Madam Speaker.