The British Virgin Islands (BVI) has launched its International Arbitration Centre (IAC), which will deal with cases under its own rules and offer ad hoc and other kinds of institutional arbitration.
The BVI IAC opened its doors on 16 November with the intention of becoming the regional dispute resolution hub for contentious matters relating to business activity, investments and projects worldwide.
While parties will be able to choose arbitrators, the center will have a panel of more than 190 arbitration practitioners from common law and civil law jurisdictions, who will work in various languages including English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, French, German and Italian.
John Beechey, formerly the president of the International Chamber of Commerce International Court of Arbitration (ICC), was appointed as chair of BVI IAC’s board of directors, whose Chief Executive Officer will be Francois Lassalle, the former divisional Practice Manager of Dentons’ London-based energy, transport, infrastructure, real estate and dispute resolution practices.
Cherno Jallow QC, BVI’s former attorney-general and the current director of policy, statistics and research at the BVI Financial Services Commission, will serve as deputy chairman.
The other board members will be Mark Forte, the head of litigation and restructuring at offshore law firm Conyers Dill & Pearman, Murray Smith, a chartered commercial arbitrator and barrister at Vancouver-based Smith Barristers, and Felice Swapp, chief operating officer at BVI-headquartered Harney Westwood & Riegels.
BVI IAC’s registrar will be João Vilhena Valério, co-founder of Hong Kong-based arbitration boutique BeecheyArbitration, while Antonius Hippolyte, a researcher at the University of Hull, has been hired as a research advisor.
“BVI is a centre of excellence for global business and dispute resolution,” Lorna Smith, interim director of offshore financial services provider BVI Finance, said in a statement. “It is based on a legal system founded upon English Common law which will enable us to be a leading jurisdiction providing financial services solutions.”
In a similar vein, Phillip Kite, Harneys’ head of litigation, tells CDR that “the BVI offers numerous advantages for litigation, arbitration and alternative dispute resolution due to its stable government, sophisticated, well-developed court system and established track record as a leading and cost competitive international financial services centre”.
Commenting on the BVI IAC’s launch, he says that the centre “has been constructed drawing from the experience of other arbitration centres around the world” and “it follows the founding of the BVI Commercial Court in 2009, which has earned a highly respected international reputation for litigation and commercial disputes.
Forte calls the BVI IAC “a welcome and necessary complement” to BVI’s already existing commercial dispute resolution offering.
“As the world’s foremost company incorporation jurisdiction, the BVI has significant potential for sophisticated and dedicated arbitration services both as a physical centre with state of the art international resources, and as a choice of mechanism with the Arbitration Act 2015 and newly published BVI IAC Rules.”
Also referring to the BVI Commercial Court, Forte says that now the BVI is an “unparalleled” dispute resolution hub.
Echoing his comments, Arabella di Iorio, head of BVI litigation and trusts groups at George Town, Cayman Islands-headquartered Maples and Calder, says: “Following the coming into force of the Arbitration Act 2013, the opening of the IAC with a bespoke set of rules and up to the minute facilities positions the BVI as an international arbitration jurisdiction able to compete with, if not surpass, any other.”
She adds that as chair of the BVI chapter of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a member of the BVI IAC’s inaugural panel of arbitrators, she is “proud” of the achievements of the jurisdiction.