BANKING REGULATIONS IN THE DUTCH CARIBBEAN

Soliciting funds requires a license

The Netherlands Antilles was dissolved on October 10, 2010. Prior to that date the Netherlands Antilles consisted of Curacao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba, and formed, together with the Netherlands and Aruba, the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Curacao and St. Maarten have become independent countries within the Kingdom. They stand on equal footing with the Netherlands and with Aruba, each country with its own set of laws. Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (the “BES-islands”), have, as public entities, become part of the Netherlands. The civil, corporate and banking laws of Curacao, St. Maarten and the BES-islands are substantially the same as Netherlands Antilles’ law before the dissolution.

The ‘Dutch Caribbean’ is an unofficial name used for referring jointly to the islands territories Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten and the BES-islands.

Each of entities, Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten and the BES-islands has its own ordinance on the supervision of credit institutions (banks). These Ordinances prohibit (i) anyone from engaging in the business of a credit institution (kredietinstelling) without a license issued by the Central Bank (either the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten, or, as far as the BES-islands are concerned: the Dutch Central Bank) and (ii) anyone (other than a licensed credit institution) to – directly or indirectly – solicit funds from the public or to solicit the public to make use of credit facilities. The wording of the Aruba ordinance is more or less similar, however the numbering is different. Aruba has its own Central Bank.

Licenses granted under the respective Ordinances are geographically restricted. A license granted by the Central Bank of Aruba does not permit the licensee to carry out banking activities in Curacao, St. Maarten or the BES-islands.

Solicitation refers to the direct or indirect soliciting of funds from the public or extending credit to the public, including (i) soliciting by a Dutch Caribbean entity (branch or office) outside of its jurisdiction (which is a trigger event) and (ii) soliciting within one of the Dutch Caribbean jurisdictions by a foreign entity (which is also a trigger event). The concept of “solicitation” is not entirely clear as there is no case law in the Dutch Caribbean on the topic.

Either taking deposits or providing credit on condition that is unsolicited is not prohibited. The explanatory note to the Ordinance grants a wide scope to the term “public”, i.e. anyone other than a licensed credit institution. Therefore, debt securities and debt instruments issued by a foreign bank should not be offered to clients or potential clients in the Dutch Caribbean as that may be considered as soliciting funds from the public or extending credit.

Karel Frielink
Attorney (Lawyer) / Partner

10 May 2011

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