British Virgin Islands: “Cybercrime” bill returns, may be pushed through House of Assembly tomorrow (Tuesday July 22nd)

The BVI Beacon reports that the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act 2014 “has re-appeared on an order paper for Tuesday’s House of Assembly sitting.”

The bill was first tabled in the aftermath of Offshore Leaks, which uncovered the identities of dozens of owners of anonymous BVI companies. The proposed law created an international outcry among press freedom, tax justice and anti-corruption advocates at the time, as it would lead to up to 20 years imprisonment for individuals who leak secret  data, and up to 15 years imprisonment for journalists publishing the leaks, in any country.

An editorial in the Economist also spoke out against it, saying that “people have a right to financial privacy if they have done nothing wrong but the law makes no provision for a public-interest defence. There is no protection for journalists who publish leaked information that reveals clear evidence of financial fraud, tax evasion or terrorist financing.”

Although it was passed by the House of Assembly (HOA) in March 2014, the BVI’s Governor did not subsequently sign the bill into law. The plan now seems to be to push the Bill through the House in a single sitting. As the Beacon, which is also on record opposing the law, explains:

“HOA rules normally call for a bill to be read in the House on two separate sittings: once for an introduction and a second and third time on the sitting when it gets a vote, but the rule will be suspended for the cybercrime bill…[ ]…according to the order paper.”

The order of the day for Tuesday July 22nd is available here (hat tip BVI Beacon); see page 8 for the proposed motions by the Premier and Minister of Finance to introduce the bill and skip through the three required readings.

 

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