The British Virgin Islands (BVI) has launched a Commercial Court, with 3 Stone Buildings counsel Edward Bannister QC appointed as its first presiding judge.
The court, an extension of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), will hear commercial matters from nine Caribbean nations and territories, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda and the BVI.
The court is also expected to hear cases stemming from the 800,000 offshore companies registered in the BVI, making it a key litigation centre for offshore lawyers.
In March The Lawyer revealed that Withers would become the first onshore firm to move into offshore territory by opening in the BVI (30 March, 2009). Managing director Margaret Robertson said an increasing amount of litigation involved an offshore component.
Meanwhile, offshore firms are vying to house the largest litigation practice in the jurisdiction. Currently, Harneys Westwood & Riegals is leading the race with three partners heading a nine-lawyer team.
However, the firm recently suffered the loss of equity partner Ray Wearmouth to rival Ogier. Wearmouth rejoined Ogier after a seven-year stint at Harneys, where he headed the firm’s banking and corporate practice and helped to establish the firm’s Hong Kong presence.