‘Mauritius offers investors a guarantee’ – FSC CEO Dhanesswurnath Thakoor

By Kervin Victor, in Port Louis
Posted on Monday, 30 May 2022 12:51

Dhanesswurnath Thakoor, Chief Executive of the Mauritius Financial Services Commission (photo supplied)

With Mauritius removed from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list of countries subject to increased monitoring on 21 October 2021, and from the EU list of high-risk third countries on 7 January 2022, Dhanesswurnath Thakoor can breathe a sigh of relief.

Now, the CEO of the Mauritius Financial Services Commission (FSC) is engaged in promoting the services of the country’s International Finance Centre (IFC) and catering for a growing interest in its services from the world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrencies.

TAR: What was the FSC’s role in getting the country removed from the FATF and EU lists?

Thakoor: The FSC was among the main stakeholders directly involved in the delisting of Mauritius from the lists of jurisdictions under increased monitoring. A robust and sustained risk-based approach to supervision was adopted, and the FSC leveraged technological upgrades to address the deficiencies identified in the system. These have reaped positive results, and now that Mauritius is a clean jurisdiction we can henceforth conduct business in a much more controlled and safer environment.

How will you further enhance the reputation of the IFC?

The Commission is engaged in continuously updating its supervisory framework and its inspection and enforcement manuals to respond to the evolving anti-money-­laundering/combating the financing of terrorism threats and vulnerabilities for the regulated financial institutions. The FSC continues to execute its risk-based supervisory plan through different supervisory engagements, including onsite inspections, offsite reviews and thematic reviews to assess the level of compliance among the FSC-licensed financial institutions.

As part of its digitalisation process, the FSC launched the FSC One platform in August 2021. This online platform is being updated to optimise processes for collecting, storing, analysing and transforming supervisory data to sharpen risk assessment, as well as to improve the supervisory process.

Did the Mauritius International Financial Centre experience difficulties while it was on these lists?

At the time when Mauritius was placed on the FATF grey list (February 2020) and the EU blacklist (October 2020), we were also faced with the first lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The compound effect of these two scenarios initially had an adverse impact on the financial services sector, resulting in a decrease in the number of newly licensed global business (GB) entities: 994 in 2020 compared to 1,245 in 2019.

Fortunately, this rapidly picked up in 2021, with a significant increase in newly licensed GB entities, which went up to 1,516 in 2021. Newly licensed authorised companies have also increased, from 658 in 2020 to 4,174 in 2021. This is a clear indication that the financial services sector is on the right track and that the Mauritian jurisdiction is an attractive platform on which to conduct business.

How are the authorities helping attract investment?

Mauritius is a beacon of political, social and economic stability. With its wide network of double-­taxation-avoidance agreements and investment promotion and protection agreements, Mauritius offers a conducive environment for doing business that guarantees predictability, certainty and security.

The Mauritius IFC offers a plethora of services and products to investors. One such area which has growing interest for investors is the new products and services coming through the world of crypto virtual assets, such as NFTs, crypto­currencies or these multiverse products which will have an impact. But also all the current exchanges and funds will now evolve into digitalisation.

Recent developments have also taken place in the investment fund sector. The FSC issued a new set of rules regulating the special purpose fund (SPF) to make it more accessible. The SPF is available for investors investing at least $100,000 in private placement, who benefit from attractive tax incentives upon meeting the substance requirements.

In September 2021, the FSC issued a new set of rules governing real-estate investment trusts (REITs), which invest primarily in real-­estate assets with the aim of providing returns to holders from the rental income. A REIT also benefits from attractive tax incentives.

Similarly, with the introduction of the variable capital company (VCC) bill in the national assembly, the VCC becomes an efficient structure for fund promoters who wish to set up several investment funds in Mauritius. The sub-funds of a VCC are eligible for the partial tax exemption regime.

The Mauritius IFC has positioned itself as the investment gateway to Africa but is facing strong competition from some African countries like South Africa, Botswana, Rwanda, Kenya and even Nigeria. So why should an investor come to Mauritius while (s)he can invest directly on the continent?

Any entity intending to invest in Africa has two choices: to go and invest directly in Africa or to invest in Africa through Mauritius. Through Mauritius, they benefit from a free-trade agreement (FTA) with India, an FTA with China, and a continental FTA with Africa.

We have a workforce highly educated in financial services, ready to give the right advice, not only in terms of setting up the company but also in back-­office work. With our unique set-up through a management company, we provide a gateway: you just come with your investment; we will do the rest, including setting up the company and contacting the counterpart in Africa. Several of our management companies have subsidiaries in Africa.

Mauritius is a member of the Southern African Development Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. It is also a signatory to the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement with India. This provides significant advantages.

We also have 23 investment promotion and protection agreements with African states, and have set special economic zones with countries including Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. All these offer advantages to investors who choose our jurisdiction as a financial centre to invest in Africa.

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