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Cook Islands News
A Silver Sponsor at the Heckerling Institute in January in Orlando, Florida, FSDA and industry members, Cook Islands Trust Corporation and Ora Trust Limited, met with attorneys from around the US. Over 2600 attorneys attended this year's conference. The Cook Islands was the only international jurisdiction represented. It was a great opportunity to meet new attorneys while at the same time meeting with key attorneys who have worked with the Cook Islands for years.
Congratulations to Andy and Holly Strauss of Asheville, NC as the winners of a trip to the Cook Islands! The Strauss' look forward to their stay at the Crown Beach Resort & Spa later this year.
TIEAs Scheduled to be Signed
The Cook Islands is scheduled to sign its 16th and 17th TIEAs within the next two months. Both Germany and Mexico have arranged for the signing of their agreements with the Cook Islands.
Global Forum Peer Review
The Cook Islands is currently undergoing its Phase 1 Peer Review. The initial questionnaire has been submitted and the country awaits its report from the Global Forum Peer Review team.
FSC Online Registry Goes Live
12 December 2011 provided a further cause for celebration outside the normal festive season activities for the staff of the Financial Supervisory Commission. This date represented the culmination of almost twelve months of hard work as the on-line registry system they had been working to implement went live.
'This system will provide a modern and efficient mechanism in which to conduct registry activity, which can only serve to improve the potential for growth in the financial services sector' said FSC Commissioner John Hobbs. The benefits of this system are wide ranging and will ensure the Cook Islands is not left behind in embracing technological advancements. 'Not only does this have the potential to attract new international business to the Cook Islands, with increased ease of doing business, enhanced compliance mechanisms will ensure the Cook Islands remains a reputable offshore jurisdiction to do business' he said.
The Digital Registers Act 2011, which only received Royal Assent on the last working day before the system was scheduled to be rolled out, will also ensure the integrity and security of data captured by the offshore register is maintained. Further, an electronic database will allow the FSC to backup its records according to accepted industry standards. 'Data security was absolutely critical to the implementation of the on-line registry and remained a key focus throughout the implementation phase of this project' said Hobbs.
Earlier in the year, the FSC and the Ministry of Justice were successful in securing funding via the NZ Aid Programme to carry out this project and engaged the services of IT provider Foster Moore and the NZ Companies Office to do so.. 'Foster Moore and NZCO not only have significant experience in this area, but the opportunity to form an ongoing relationship with NZCO and benefit from the training opportunities that were provided will further build the capacity of staff of the FSC and MOJ' Hobbs said. Hobbs also commented that the implementation could not have proceeded on schedule without the diligent application of all FSC staff. 'This project impacted heavily on the resources of the Commission over the last 6 months as they continued to carry out their regular roles on top of the demands this project presented. They all should be commended for their efforts, especially project manager Louise Wittwer, and will well and truly deserve their break over the Christmas period' he said.
The Cook Islands Online Registry is set to launch December 12, 2011. Training began this week for trustee company staff who handle registrations and renewals for their respective companies. The Registry is accessible only by the trustee companies, not by the general public. Custom features have been built in to the Registry to ensure the highest level of client information security. While already known for its quick registration services, this will allow the Cook Islands to provide clients with an even more efficient registration and renewal process.
Legislation for Foundations is in the drafting process in the Cook Islands. This will allow clients another option in their wealth management and estate planning. While trusts have long been the main entity for clients using the Cook Islands, the geographic makeup of clients is becoming more diverse. Clients from civil law jurisdictions, in particular China, will find a Cook Islands foundation more recognizable and compatible with their home country legal concepts. When passed, the foundations legislation will help the Cook Islands improve its already strong position in the private wealth market and reinforce its reputation of being able to respond quickly to market changes.
The Cook Islands' Global Forum Peer Review officially begins November 21. The country will have four weeks from that date to respond to the Peer Review questionnaire. The head of Treasury, Andrew Haigh, and CEO of the Financial Services Development Authority, Jenner Davis, have attended relevant meetings and training seminars to prepare the country for the review. They in turn have held meetings with industry stakeholders and other entities who will need to provide input throughout the process so everyone is prepared for what the process entails. New Zealand Inland Revenue Department has provided their policy leader, Graham Hunt, to assist the Cook Islands in completing its questionnaire. New Zealand has completed both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Peer Review process allowing Graham to offer the Cook Islands invaluable insight to the process.