Opportunities for SA investors as Indian Ocean islands return to business
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The islands of Seychelles and Mauritius are ready to take the Indian Ocean region to greater heights after their recent removals from two key global blacklists. Following the Seychelles’ removal from the European Union’s list of high-risk countries in early October, Mauritius has been removed from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) so-called ‘grey list’ of countries under increased monitoring.
This means both jurisdictions can expect a significant boost in business promotion and tourism over the next couple of months, said Sovereign Trust (SA) director, Coreen van der Merwe. The news is of particular interest to South African investors, who are increasingly being attracted by a range of incentives, making it cheaper and easier for investors and expatriates to live and work in Mauritius. There is a dynamic and growing community of expatriate South Africans on the island.
Seychelles was downgraded from ‘largely compliant’ to ‘partially compliant’ in February 2020 after the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) expressed concerns over the availability and access to information in its offshore sector. As a result, it was added to the EU Blacklist, until being removed on October 5.
Mauritius was placed on the grey list of the FATF, the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, as a result of strategic deficiencies identified in its Anti-money Laundering and Counter-terrorism Financing (AML/CFT) framework. The EU followed suit, placing Mauritius on the EU Blacklist from 1 October 2020. The country’s whitelisting by the FATF on 21 October means its removal from the EU Blacklist is imminent.
From a business perspective, there are three types of Mauritius companies that can be set up: the global business company, the authorised company and the domestic company. “It’s important to understand the differences between the three types of companies before you start setting up your business in Mauritius. You should take expert advice from companies who already have a footprint in Mauritius, and can guide you through the incorporation process, opening of Mauritius bank accounts, accounting and residency permits for employees to be relocated to Mauritius,” said van der Merwe.
Last year, Mauritius reduced the minimum investment required to acquire an occupation permit as an investor, and live in Mauritius as a non-citizen, to $50 000 (R867 000), from $100 000 (R1.7 million). The validity of an occupation permit has also been extended from three to 10 years, and the spouses of occupation permit holders will no longer require a separate permit to invest or work in Mauritius. The holders of occupation permits will also be allowed to bring their parents and dependents under 24 to live in Mauritius.
“The changes to the requirements for the various permits and acquisition of land are clear incentives to make Mauritius more attractive to prospective investors, talented individuals and expatriates wishing to base themselves in Mauritius,” said van der Merwe. “Now that the cloud of the grey list has been lifted, we expect to see more South Africans streaming to the island, both to live and work.”