Since the days of welcoming the British Navy to Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua and Barbuda has a rich history of being a friendly and safe harbour for visitors. This tradition of service continues today, although visitors now arrive on board super yachts, mega-cruisers and international flights from all around the world. Among the many attractions offered to visitors are opportunities for a second home, a second citizenship and a second banking relationship, services from the jurisdiction’s International Financial Centre. This 40-year-old jurisdiction is experienced in catering to the wealthy, regardless of whether it is an investment in Antigua or a wealth management service, and has developed banking products tailored to suit Caribbean and international client relationships. The Caribbean is considered a Zone of Peace and Antigua offers a safe financial haven with a stable business environment to shelter from the ‘storms’ of volatile economies.
International Financial Services and Regulation
Many of the attributes that make Antigua a successful tourism destination also serves to make it a well-regarded international business centre. In support of an alternative industry, Antigua enacted its International Business Corporations Act in 1982 to govern international business services and foreign direct investments. The Act has continuously been updated and amended to remain compliant with the ever-changing goal posts of international regulatory and tax requirements. To this end, local regulations have kept pace with the demands of international authorities for fully transparent financial services, and the government has strengthened its regulatory and supervisory machinery for financial institutions. Current amendments have removed any ring-fenced financial sectors as well as the stereo-type of offshore vs onshore as all resident and licensed financial institutions are subject to local taxes and attract business locally.
The jurisdiction is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), and has been deemed a co-operative country in the efforts to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Since February 2014, FATF recognised that Antigua and Barbuda had graduated to a satisfactory position of compliance and did not require monitoring. Both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank teams have reviewed the regulatory and banking environment, and found Antigua to be in compliance with OECD and EU requirements related to international banking standards and legislation. Antigua and Barbuda’s FIU is a member of the Egmont Group and exchanges essential information to prohibit illicit transactions.
Safe Depository Environment
As established markets continue to be hurt by the financial crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic creating a credit crunch, as well as political instability in many countries, an increasing number of affluent investors are looking to the Caribbean in an attempt to seek a safer and more stable financial and health environment as a second home. Residency is also available to international visitors seeking a better location from which to conduct their business remotely. Antiguan banks have had less direct exposure to the global crisis and as a low population destination, has managed the Covid-19 pandemic responsibly. The jurisdiction has consistently practiced prudent banking standards by being conservative in its lending guidelines and is closely monitored by its regulatory authorities. Caribbean banks are considered to be one of the safest depository opportunities in the world at this time.
In today’s global village, geographic focus is less relevant to clients with an increasingly international perspective, as modern technology can deliver a consistently high standard of service for customers to conduct secure banking business regardless of physical presence.
Antigua attracts international investors from Latin America, Europe, North America and the Far East seeking Caribbean based banking services, and who wish to balance their portfolios with investments in Antigua and Barbuda, including taking an interest in real estate investment in the jurisdiction. Increasingly, investors have been purchasing properties in Antigua & Barbuda as vacation and second homes. Such investments, together with a satisfactory due diligence procedure, may also qualify them for citizenship under the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP). The application for citizenship is only granted on the basis of approved persons and families who satisfy a high international standard of due diligence requirements and qualify in respect of making personal investments in Antigua and Barbuda.