British Virgin Islands: A Guide To Harney Westwood & Riegels

Last Updated: 18 February 1999

Harney Westwood & Riegels is the largest and oldest law firm in the British Virgin Islands, dating back to 1960 when Harold Harney established the first resident legal practice in the British Virgin Islands. Joined in 1966 by Neville C. Westwood, and in 1973 by Michael D. Riegels, the resulting firm, now numbering some thirty lawyers, has practised as Harney Westwood & Riegels ever since.

Our clients range from leading international businesses and banks to private individuals. With a reputation as one of the Caribbean's leading commercial practices, Harney Westwood & Riegels is committed to combining solid legal expertise with an innovative approach to solving clients' problems in all aspects of commercial work.

The following is a brief summary of the services provided by Harney Westwood & Riegels. For further information please contact our offices in Tortola or Anguilla, the details of which appear at the end of this summary.


  • TAX


A dedicated record of working with clients in the banking industry has established Harney Westwood & Riegels as one of the leading regional practices in this field. The firm is counsel to the largest commercial lending bank in the British Virgin Islands.

The firm's banking team (which has bi-lingual Spanish capacity to serve the Latin American market), aims to provide prompt and efficient responses to its growing clientele in over one hundred countries world-wide. The firm has advised a large number of international banks, financial institutions and corporate clients in relation to:

  • buy outs
  • acquisition finance
  • restructuring
  • structured finance and trade finance
  • securitisation
  • property financing
  • asset financing (including aircraft and ship financing and all forms of lease finance)
  • repackaging of bonds and other debt instruments.


The firm advises on all aspects of general commercial and corporate law with particular reference to:

  • public offerings
  • joint ventures
  • special purpose vehicles
  • corporate restructurings
  • mergers
  • insurance
  • regulatory matters pertaining to financial services.

The incorporation and limited partnership formation service is equipped with the latest technology enabling the firm to meet the demands of clients in the shortest possible time. It has the resources to prepare and file incorporation documents within 24 to 48 hours, whilst ready-made shelf companies are also available. The on-line link to the Registry of Companies provides a comprehensive name-checking facility allowing immediate determination of the availability of a proposed company or limited partnership name.

Harney Westwood & Riegels, and its affiliate, HWR Services Limited, are among the leading providers of company and limited partnership formation and related services in the British Virgin Islands.


Company Secretaries support the corporate finance and the investment fund and regulatory teams and oversee the affairs of more than 35,000 British Virgin Islands companies. HWR Services Limited provides a whole range of registered office and registered agent services as well as company secretarial services.


Harney Westwood & Riegels provides a wide range of fiduciary support services to those clients who require more than the simple provision of a registered office and registered agent for their companies in the British Virgin Islands. The firm's fiduciary services department specialises in the maintenance of companies for which HWR Services Limited provides the following:

  • corporate directorships
  • individual directorships
  • signatories on bank accounts
  • custodianship of documents
  • corporate trusteeships for British Virgin Islands trusts
  • liquidation advice and support services.


The firm provides advice on matters concerning the rights of both secured and unsecured creditors, debtor companies, liquidators and receivers. Solutions for the recovery of creditors' debts in insolvency situations are also constructed and advice is available on the powers and duties of liquidators and receivers.


Harney Westwood & Riegels provides specialist advice on copyright, trademarks and multi-media matters and regularly acts for clients in intellectual property disputes either by way of traditional litigation or arbitration. The firm's attorneys also handle multi-party actions which frequently involve complex technical and legal issues.


International markets have experienced substantial growth over the past few years, particularly in the areas of derivatives, futures, warrants, swaps and other hybrid products. In the face of such constantly changing market conditions, the firm has a specialist team offering advice on matters such as netting, set-off, collateralisation, security interests and regulation.


The flexibility and popularity of the International Business Companies Act has led to a significant increase in the number of offshore funds being incorporated under that statute. The Mutual Funds Act was recently introduced to provide a parallel regulatory framework in response. Based on this significant growth, the investment funds group is now one of the fastest growing areas of the firm's practice. The group provides advice on a variety of offshore collective investment schemes to sponsors, banks and fund managers, with particular emphasis on hedge funds. Advice is also given on all regulatory aspects of the Mutual Funds Act.


Harney Westwood & Riegels has a specialist litigation department. Particular emphasis is placed on commercial matters involving International Business Companies, although a large proportion of the department's work is connected with high profile multi-jurisdictional disputes as well as fraud, trusts, insolvency, business, financial and shareholder disputes.

The firm frequently advises foreign lawyers on matters of British Virgin Islands' law and represents their clients in proceedings brought in the High Court of the British Virgin Islands. As a common law jurisdiction, many of the pre-emptive remedies which are used in England such as Mareva injunctions and Norwich Pharmacol orders are available in the British Virgin Islands.


The firm advises both local and international clients in connection with a wide range of trust and trust related matters including employee benefit schemes, charitable trusts and non-charitable purpose trusts. Services available to private clients include:

  • preparation and execution of wills and codicils
  • application for probate and letters of administration
  • resealing of foreign wills
  • contentious probate applications
  • estate planning and administration.


The firm provides advice to both commercial and private clients on a variety of real property matters. These cover not only the acquisition, sale or mortgage of residential and commercial property and land in the British Virgin Islands, but also residential and commercial leases, property development, conveyancing and title disputes. The firm has particular expertise in advising foreign nationals on the acquisition of property in the British Virgin Islands.


Tourism, and especially the yachting sector, is one of the leading industries in the British Virgin Islands. The Shipping Registry of the British Virgin Islands is an extension of the British Registry accommodating yachts of up to 500 gross registered tons. There is no VAT on yachts registered in the Territory and European tax laws do not apply.

The admiralty law practice is among the most experienced in the British Virgin Islands. The firm also conducts a large international admiralty litigation practice which advises and acts in the arrest, detention and implementation of maritime claims against vessels.


The firm combines a comprehensive business tax advisory service with an approach that emphasises the creation of tax efficient structures and tax planning. Advice is also given on indirect tax matters, stamp, customs and other duties.

If you would like further information on either the British Virgin Islands or Anguilla or details of how Harney Westwood & Riegels can help you with your legal enquiries in these jurisdictions, please contact Richard Parsons in the British Virgin Islands or J Alex Richardson in Anguilla.

Harney Westwood & Riegels also provide information and advice on Anguilla. To view this information Click Here

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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