BVI governor agrees general licence for payment of sanctioned persons' legal fees

Monday, 17 April 2023
The Governor of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has signed a general licence allowing individuals and entities designated under the Russian and Belarusian sanctions regimes to pay any 'reasonable' fees and expenses incurred for professional legal services.
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The BVI has never prohibited the provision of legal advice to sanctioned persons, in acknowledgement of the importance of the right to receive legal advice and representation. Until now, however, every payment for legal services to a person subject to an asset freeze has required a separate licence from the Governor, even if the services were provided on credit. General Licence No.3, 2023 is being issued in recognition of the 'extraordinary number' of new designations under the sanctions regimes and the corresponding increase in applications for a special licence.

The general licence comes into effect immediately, but the BVI Financial Services Commission is warning regulated firms to carefully consider its terms before making use of the permissions. In particular, firms wishing to make use of the general licence must report to the Governor's office, although if general licence terms are met they do not have to wait for permission. Fees and expenses payable are capped at different levels, depending on whether the legal work was carried out under a pre-designation obligation or commenced after the designation.

For legal work carried out in satisfaction of a prior obligation, for example where a law firm or barrister is engaged before the designation of the individual or entity, there is a USD600,000 cap on the amount that can be claimed over the duration of the licence.

For all legal work commenced post-designation, users of the licence will need to demonstrate through their reporting obligations that all fees that have been paid are reasonable. This will be done by providing details of hourly fees, work streams and evidence that overall fees are at or below a USD600,000 cap.


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