October 26, 2022 Connor Steens

THE COOK ISLANDS: PIONEERS OF ASSET PROTECTION TRUSTS

BY CONNOR STEENS

After the enactment of both the International Companies Act 1981-82 and the International Trusts Act 1984 the Cook Islands set about as pioneers in the offshore trust industry to become the well regarded, international financial centre that it is today. While some might have reservations about the small island nation regarding such a title, the robust asset protection framework and professional service offerings are sure to diminish any concerns that prospective clients might possess.

History and Economy

The Cook Islands is comprised of 15 islands in the South Pacific approximately 3,200km northeast of New Zealand. The most populous island, Rarotonga is almost directly south of Hawaii.

The islands are thought to have been settled between 500 and 1000 AD by Polynesian people who are considered to have migrated from French Polynesia, 1,000km northeast of Rarotonga. In 1773, and again in 1777, the islands were visited by British navigator, Captain James Cook, after whom the islands were named.

In the 1890’s the Cook Islands were aligned with the United Kingdom, for fear of French occupation as was the case in Tahiti. In 1901 the islands were then included within the boundaries of the Colony of New Zealand and in 1965 the Cook Islands became self governing with the establishment of its own Parliament and constitution.

The Cook Islands is a Commonwealth nation and maintains its ties with New Zealand and the Crown with a legal system based on British Common Law and the head of state being the King of New Zealand, King Charles III. The islands operate as self governing in free association with New Zealand.

English is an official and widely spoken language in the Cooks, and the New Zealand Dollar is the currency used. Tourism provides most of the GDP which is supplemented by direct flights from Tahiti, Sydney and Auckland (Los Angeles prior to Covid-19). However, its offshore financial services are well regarded around the world.

Cook Islands Financial Services

Southpac Trust Cook Islands was first established in 1982, the company worked with leading attorneys to develop the legislation that provides such a high and globally recognised degree of asset protection in its product offerings. For a list of reasons you might consider a Cook Islands trust, I recommend you read this article: FIVE REASONS TO ESTABLISH A COOK ISLANDS TRUST.

From the enactment of such legislation, a framework was established to continue developing and maintaining professionalism within the industry. The Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) is the regulatory body that both licenses and regulates the trustee companies, international banks, and other service providers that operate within the Cook Islands.

Southpac Trust itself has maintained its position within the industry since its conception and continues to offer Cook Islands trusts and companies to its client base around the world, with the expertise that can be expected with 40 years of knowledge and experience.

To supplement the asset protection structures on offer, the Cook Islands hosts the full service, private bank Capital Security Bank (CSB) which was established in 1997 to service the entities managed by trustee companies such as Southpac. CSB provides self-directed trading accounts and managed investment accounts amongst its standard offerings. CSB is a member of SWIFT, offering transactions across the globe and maintains a capital adequacy ratio that exceeds Basel III requirements, which measure a bank’s financial stability.

In addition to offshore banking, the Cook Islands maintains an Open Register for ships and yachts through Maritime Cook Islands and their network of Deputy Registrars around the world. Such vessels can be registered by establishing and registering a Cook Islands company through Southpac, which the vessel is owned by. Upon registration the Cook Islands flag can be flown.

 

At times, potential clients or partners can hold concerns about the Cook Islands, particularly around the sheer amount of physical distance between their trustee and themselves. However, it is important to note that by engaging a reputable trustee such as Southpac and recognising the history of the industry and the nation itself, you can be sure that your wealth is safe and truly utilizing the fantastic asset protection benefits of Cook Islands legislation.

If you would like to enquire about any of the products or services mentioned in this article, don’t hesitate to contact us now.

Connor Steens

Connor Steens works as an Analyst at Southpac Group. Connor has worked closely with Guy on investment an banking relationships. Connor currently oversees and monitors current marketing analytics, exposure and direction, content creation and market presence.
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