"The Cook Islands established itself as an international ﬁnance center in the early 1980s with the enactment of the International Companies Act 1981-82 and the International Trusts Act 1984"
In the heart of the South Pacific is the nation of the Cook Islands. Situated south of Hawaii and in the same time zone, Cook Islands are an independent nation, in free association with New Zealand, so all are New Zealand citizens.
The Cook Islands established itself as an international ﬁnance center in the early 1980s with the enactment of the International Companies Act 1981-82 and the International Trusts Act 1984. Since that time, through amendments to those acts and subsequent legislation, the Cook Islands has developed a robust asset protection framework. Its focus on protecting wealth has developed in response to society’s need, and right, to have wealth protected from those who attempt to take it by force, litigation or legislation – whether through illegal, unethical or immoral means.
The Cook Islands are a Westminster style democracy with an elected Parliament. The Head of State is Queen Elizabeth 2 represented locally by the Queen’s Representative. The legal system is based of British Common Law similar to other Commonwealth nations. It has an independent Judiciary with a High Court and Court of Appeal based in Rarotonga and the Privy Council in London as the final Appellate Court. Overall Cook Islands has a strong level of governance and appropriate public systems in place. English is the official language with the New Zealand Dollar the official currency. It is well connected internationally by air with direct flights to Los Angeles, Sydney, Auckland and Papeete.
Trustee companies licensed pursuant to the Trustee Companies Act 2014 are responsible in the Cook Islands for providing services to offshore entities established under the Cook Islands offshore legislation. The licensed trustee companies offer a wealth of experience and expertise when providing wealth management services. Those services include structuring, trustee, corporate, administration and accounting services. Trustee companies are licensed and regulated by the Cook Islands Financial Supervisory Commission.
The Cook Islands operates an Open Register for all vessels including merchant and fishing vessels and commercial and private yachts. Maritime Cook Islands Limited performs the Flag State responsibilities on behalf of the Cook Islands Ministry of Transport. Registrations are compliant with the Cook Islands Ship Registration Act 2007 and IMO Conventions. Upon registration, a vessel can fly the Cook Islands flag in international waters.
The Cook Islands is able to offer excellent legal resources to assist clients, both resident and non-resident, with their legal requirements. Lawyers admitted to practice in the Cook Islands are members of the Cook Islands Law Society established pursuant to the Law Practitioners Act 1993-94. The Act provides for the functions of the Law Society, admission procedures for barristers and solicitors, disciplinary and trust account obligations and the establishment of a Council of the Law Society. It also provides for a Code of Ethics.
"Another factor to consider in banking in the Cook Islands is privacy. Unlike other offshore jurisdictions which are considering disclosure requirements the Cook Islands has legislated privacy protections for international companies, international trusts, limited liability companies, and international partnerships"
Well regulated with the government’s Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) licensing and regulating domestic and international banks, insurers, captive insurers, trustee companies, and money changing and remittance businesses. It is supported by the Financial Investigations Unit which manages the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism obligations. The latest report undertaken on the Cook Islands by the multi government Financial Action Task Force in September 2018 found the Cook Islands to have ‘established a well-functioning framework” and meeting its obligations under the all of the Effectiveness and Technical Compliance Ratings criteria.
There are four banks currently licensed to provide banking. There are two types of banking licenses – Domestic, for local residents and International which is for people or entities not resident in the Cook Islands. Banks are required to met the requirements of the Banking Act 2011 together with the obligations under the FSC’s Prudential Standards. Capital Security Bank (CSB) is the only bank that utilizes its International License to provide banking services to non-resident clients.
CSB is a full-service private bank with its office in Avarua, on the main island of Rarotonga. It provides banking services to personal and entities from around the world, with the ability to open accounts remotely so no need to be there in person. Providing call accounts in all major currencies, CSB also provides Term Deposits, USD Pre Paid Debut Cards, Foreign Exchange, Investment Accounts and Bullion Storage. As a SWIFT bank, CSB is connected to the banking world’s payment system meaning it can make payments to anywhere in the world. With strong banking relationships in Asia, Europe and North America CSB is well connected.
Establishing and operating a bank account in the Cook Islands is a simple process and our clients tell us this – the 3 key areas are:
1. Ease of opening an account
2. Availability of support; and
3. Speed of international payments.
Opening an international account with CSB will ensure that your requirements in these areas are met.
Another factor to consider in banking in the Cook Islands is privacy. Unlike other offshore jurisdictions which are considering disclosure requirements the Cook Islands has legislated privacy protections for international companies, international trusts, limited liability companies, and international partnerships, whereby ‘divulging or communicating’ information relating to the relevant legal person or arrangement or banking business and customers may be an offence.
The Cook Islands has confidentiality provisions enshrined in its legislation. However, note that these protections do not apply where:
the disclosure is required or authorised by a Court of the Cook Islands;
the disclosure is made for the purpose of discharging any duty, performing any function or exercising any power under any Act;
the disclosure is made as required by or under a search warrant; or
the disclosure is required by the Financial Transactions Reporting Act to competent authorities.
This island nation has developed a robust, sound Cook Island Asset Protection system based on common law principles and a judicial system that will consider foreign judgements so long as they are compatible with Cook Island’s law.
CSB’s products and services are available only in those jurisdictions where they may be legally obtained or offered. CSB is a Licensed Bank in the Cook Islands, regulated by the Financial Supervisory Commission.