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【Offshore Companies】BVI court rules inheritance of BVI company shares is determined by foreign law

The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal (the Court of Appeal) has ruled that a deceased Qatari royal's shares in British Virgin Islands (BVI) companies qualify as movable property and can be validly disposed of through a will made in another jurisdiction.

The judgment in the case of Sheikh Saoud Mohammed Al Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family who died in London in 2014, is of particular importance to contentious private wealth practitioners, says law firm Ogier. It affirms BVI law on res judicata and issue estoppel in cross-border succession proceedings, as well as clarifying the common law's role in determining the succession law for moveable and immovable property in the BVI.

The dispute concerned an oral will made by the Sheikh in Qatar in 1990 by which he left 20 per cent of his entire estate to his sister, niece and a close associate. The will was discovered only after his death, and was opposed in the Qatari courts by the Sheikh's widow and daughter. They lost, but during the proceedings they obtained ex parte letters of administration in the BVI for the Sheikh's estate without revealing the existence of the Qatari will.

The beneficiaries of the oral will then challenged these letters of administration in the BVI high court...

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