The Turks & Caicos Islands are an English-speaking British Dependency which lie 930 km (575 miles) southeast of Miami. To the northwest of the islands lie the Bahamas separated by a 50 km (31 miles) Map ocean passage. The Islands Dccupy some 430 sq. km (166 sq. miles) and the total population, which is largely of African origin with some North Americans and Europeans, is estimated at 13,000.
It is thought that the Islands were first discovered by Columbus on his first voyage in 1492. It is not disputed, however, that they were visited by the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon in 1512 when the Islands were occupied by Arawak Indians.
The first permanent modem settlement came in the 17th Century when the Bermudans established a salt industry. These settlers were supplemented after the American War of Independence by loyalist settlers and both parties brought with them slaves who form the basis of the present indigenous population. The Islands were first administered by the British through the colonial Government of the Bahamas but in 1848 a charter was granted to establish a separate legislature. This situation continued until the Islands became a dependency of Jamaica in 1874. Jamaica administered the Islands until 1962 when it withdrew from the Federation of the West Indies leaving the Turks & Caicos Islands to remain as a dependent territory of the United Kingdom.
The Islands are presently ruled by a Governor appointed by Britain with an Advisory Council composed of 4 nominated members. There is also a 17 strong elected Legislative Council with Britain maintaining responsibility for defence and foreign affairs. The legal system is based upon English common law with local statutory modifications. Local legal services are excellent and accountancy firms, trust companies and company managers are increasingly in evidence. There are few banking institutions as yet on the Islands, the main banks being Barclays and Scotia Bank. However, with the appointment of a Superintendent of the Financial Services Commission (FSC) and with legislation introduced in 1989 and 1990 to update company, insurance and banking laws, it is expected that more institutions will base themselves on the Islands. In the first six months following the introduction of insurance legislation in February 1990, more than 650 insurance licences
There has also been new trust and other financial legislation and the FSC feels that "next to the Cayman Islands we have the most sophisticated regulatory regime in the Caribbean".
The Islands have excellent telecommunications and the business person benefits from the regular air services, particularly from Miami, which cater for the Islands' many tourists.
The Islands have no tax treaties under which information might be exchanged with other jurisdictions and the common law duty to keep the details of client's affairs confidential is supplemented by the Confidential Relationships Ordinance.
The official currency of the Island is the US Dollar and there are no exchange controls.