Belize: Offshore Business Sectors
Offshore banking in Belize began when the outdated 1977 Banking Act, which did not adequately provide for a sound regulatory and supervisory authority, was repealed and replaced by the enactment of the Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1995, and the introduction of the Offshore Banking Act, 1996, and the Money Laundering (Prevention) Act, 1996, which incorporated the best features of offshore banking legislation in Panama, Cayman and the British Virgin Islands.
A Belize Offshore Bank can carry on the following activities within Belize:
- establish, maintain, and operate a business office in Belize;
- transact offshore banking business through its business office in Belize without restrictions;
- transact offshore banking business with a local entity in Belize licenced under the Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1995.
The major local banks offer a full range of international banking services including foreign currency savings and checking accounts earning tax-free interest and operated for the purpose of exchange control on a non-resident basis. Such accounts are offered to IBCs, individuals and trustees. Credit card services are also available.
Belize Offshore Banks are not subject to exchange control regulations.
The Central Bank of Belize was established pursuant to the Central Bank Act of 1982, the Bank Act. The Central Bank has a statutory obligation under the Bank Act to foster monetary stability and promote credit and exchange conditions conducive to economic growth within the context of the government's economic policy. The Bank Act provides the Central Bank with the statutory authority for regulating the activities of the Belizean banking system. Besides the Central Bank of Belize, in 2003 there were five commercial banks; eight offshore banks; seventeen domestic and one offshore insurance companies. In addition there was one government-owned development bank (the DFC); fifteen credit unions; three building societies; one government-owned savings bank; one government-owned small farmers and business bank; and eleven casas de cambio as of 2002.
Two categories of Belize Offshore Banks are currently available, "A" Class - Unrestricted and "B" Class - Restricted. A "B" Class bank is restricted to carrying on such business as is specified in its license. Both types of bank need to have local offices, but a "B" Class bank is not allowed to solicit deposits from local residents.