Banking in Belize
Belize is a relative newcomer in the field of international financial services. Since attaining independence from Britain in 1981, Belize has been endeavoring to diversify its economy away from the agricultural sector. Belize, therefore, saw the international financial services sector as a window of opportunity where it could seek to achieve competitive advantage. Belize also earns a substantial income from the tourism sector.
The election of a new Government in Belize in 1998 provided fresh impetus to the development of the offshore services sector. A spate of seven offshore industry measures were added to the statute book in 1999. These included:
- the International Financial Services Commission Act which seeks to promote, protect and enhance Belize as an international financial services center and to regulate the provision of international financial services;
- the International Insurance Act which provides for the regulation of persons establishing and carrying on international insurance business;
- the Protected Cell Companies Act which allows for the incorporation of protected cell companies or the conversion of an existing company to a protected cell company;
- the Mutual Funds Act which provides for the regulation, authorisation and control of mutual funds and their managers and administrators;
- the Limited Liability Partnerships Act which permits the creation of limited liability partnerships;
- the Retired Persons (Incentives) Act which offers certain tax exemptions and incentives to qualified retired persons;
- the International Business Companies (Amendment) Act which provides for the establishment of limited life companies.
Belize now offers a full menu of investment vehicles designed to meet the needs of sophisticated investors around the world. As the range of services has widened, Belize has become a more convenient place to do business. It has truly become a 'full service' jurisdiction - 'a One-Stop Shop' (as it were).
While developing its Offshore sector, Belize has not overlooked the fact that the offshore vehicles may be used by unscrupulous elements to launder the proceeds of drug trafficking or other illicit activities. Simultaneously with the enactment of the Offshore Banking Act in 1996, Belize also passed the Money Laundering (Prevention) Act which established mechanisms and procedures to ensure that the country's financial institutions are not used to disguise the source of illicit funds. This Act is central to the country's strategy to develop a reputable and viable offshore services sector. It is virtually an 'all crimes' law and is not limited to drug related offences. The definition of 'money laundering' is extremely wide and covers 'engaging, directly or indirectly, in a transaction that involves property that is the proceeds of crime, disguising, disposing of or bringing into Belize any property that is the proceeds of crime, knowing or having reasonable cause for believing the same to be the proceeds of crime.'
Belize's banking sector (including offshore banking) is regulated by the Central Bank of Belize, while the non-banking sector falls within the jurisdiction of the International Financial Services Commission (IFSC) established in 1999.
Banks Licensed Under the International Banking Act
(as of December 2008)
The first international bank was licensed in 1998 and today there are eight international banks licensed in Belize. These are listed below.
Atlantic International Bank Limited
Handels Bank and Trust Limited
Market Street Bank Limited
The Oxxy Bank, Limited
Provident Bank & Trust of Belize Limited
Caye International Bank Limited
Belize Bank International Limited
Choice Bank Limited
Source: Central Bank of Belize