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Curaçao’s International Financial Services Sector.

Curaçao is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and has a stable political environment and high quality legal system, based on civil law. The island offers excellent physical and financial infrastructures and is located outside the traditional hurricane belt. Curaçao has an open economy and offers free access to foreign currencies, such as the US Dollar and the Euro.

Since the 1950s the international financial services sector has been an important economic pillar for Curaçao. For over 70 years Curaçao has shown its strength in its multilingual and highly educated workforce. Nowadays, Curaçao is an established, secure and reliable international financial center.

Due to its long history, the island has developed a sophisticated international financial sector. A wide variety of international companies are managed from Curaçao, such as investment companies, (group) finance companies, holding companies, mutual funds, captive insurance, international banking institutions, intellectual property holding companies, family offices and hedge funds.


After Germany invaded the Netherlands and Dutch multinationals shifted their legal domiciles to Curaçao. The island became a safe haven for Dutch multinationals to conduct international business and to protect their (international) business interests. The arrival of Dutch multinationals during World War II also brought accountants, lawyers, and other professionals to the Dutch islands, a crucial ingredient for the development of the international financial services sector.

After the war, the government created a special low-tax regime for foreign companies that were a legal resident of Curaçao but physically conducted their business outside of Curaçao. With this special low-tax regime Curaçao could persuade Dutch multinationals to locate subsidiaries on the island. It was then that the international financial sector of Curaçao was born.

The island’s connection with the Dutch Kingdom has always been very important for the international financial sector. In the 1960’s the Netherlands’ post war Tax Treaty with the US was extended to the Dutch overseas territories and Curaçao became a major player in the Eurobond market.

In the 90’s Curaçao received the connotation of being a tax haven, due to its low-tax regime, and the international community was putting pressure on Curaçao and other international financial centers to reform.
Due to this pressure, Curaçao abolished all its harmful tax legislation, at the beginning of this century.
A well-balanced transition regime was introduced for existing international structures. Nowadays, there is no longer a distinction in the tax laws for foreign and local tax payers.

Curaçao has taken great strides over the past years to meet international standards set by intra-governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations like the European Union, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), G20 and Financial Action Task Force. Curaçao is regarded as a cooperative jurisdiction and is mentioned on the white list of the OECD. Furthermore, Curaçao is FATF approved, which confirms that the necessary anti-money laundering, anti-terrorist financing, know your customer, suspicious transactions and related processes and legislation are in place, adequately and in conformity with international FATF standards. This was acknowledged during the plenary meeting of the FATF in Paris in October 2012.

Current Situation

The international financial services sector accounts for 10% of the total economy of Curaçao and generates 4% of the foreign exchange income. The sector employs a direct workforce of over 1700 local professionals and pays ANG 125M in salaries. In comparison, both the local and the international financial sector employ a total of 4,700 local professionals. Professionals working in the international financial sector of Curaçao are highly educated and experienced. In addition, the workforce of Curaçao is multilingual and speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and Papiamentu. Spanish and Portuguese are widely spoken. The sector spends ANG 375M a year on intermediate goods and services in the local economy and generates some ANG 225M in profit & income tax and social security premiums for the government of Curaçao annually.

The fact that Curaçao is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands has always provided for a safe and secure environment and a high level of comfort. The Dutch monarch is head of state and is locally represented by the Governor. The Dutch government is responsible for defense and foreign policy, and has oversight over Curaçao’s finances. The internal affairs are administered by the Central Government of Curaçao and include areas such as law enforcement, communications, taxes, public health, education, establishment of enterprises, labor legislation, and the island's infrastructure. Due to Curaçao’s connection with the Netherlands, the island also has a strong connection with the European Union. As a protectorate of the Netherlands, Curaçao enjoys European Union market privileges. The independent and high-quality legal system of Curaçao is based on the Dutch civil law system. Additionally, Curaçao falls under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in The Hague (the Netherlands), which is also the Supreme Court for the Netherlands itself.
The supervision of the financial system is under the rigorous supervision of the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten and is executed in close cooperation with the Dutch Central Bank. The regulatory and supervisory environment in Curaçao is comparable to that of the Netherlands, meeting high standards and in compliance with the anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing guidelines of the G20’s Financial Action Task Force.

In comparison to the size of the economy, Curaçao has highly sophisticated tax legislation. In addition, Curaçao has concluded a large number of treaties, including over 40 foreign investment protection agreements, 22 tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs) and 4 agreements for the avoidance of double taxation (DTAs).
The tax system, including treaty eligibility, is also linked to that of the Netherlands.

Aruba • Netherlands • Norway • St. Maarten

Antigua and Barbuda • Australia • Bermuda • Canada • Cayman Islands • Colombia • Denmark • Faroe Islands • Finland • France • Greenland • Iceland • Mexico • New Zealand • Saint Kitts & Nevis • Saint Lucia • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines • Spain • Sweden • United Kingdom • United Stated • Virgin Islands, British


Curaçao: Connecting Markets

Despite the fact that Curaçao has historically always been a center of commerce and business between Europe and the Americas, the international financial sector was operating independently and predominantly focused on facilitating Dutch and US companies. Currently, Curaçao is focusing on Latin America more than ever.

Its geographical location and the available cultural mix of European and Latin-American nationals and languages, make Curaçao the ideal hub for international operations conducting business with Latin America.
A number of opportunities exist and are already being developed. In the beginning of 2013 for example, Curaçao signed a TIEA with Colombia, showing Curaçao’s commitment to transparency and ambition to contribute to the development of the Latin American market.

Furthermore, the products and services of the international financial services sector are more and more linked to other sectors. The island has a diverse economy in comparison to other Caribbean islands. Tourism, oil refining, ship repair, transshipment, international trade and IT are all major pillars of the economy. The connection with other sectors provides for a more investment driven environment as well as local substance, while providing additional added value to international clients.

A good example is the number of developments in the IT sector. The top tier data center that has been developed by CTEX (Curaçao Technology Exchange) offers an excellent starting point for the international financial sector to attract new international customers and to provide services. Cloud computing, disaster-recovery facilities, real-time back ups are becoming increasingly important for the financial services industry.
By complementing these IT solutions with financial products and services, Curaçao is able to present international clients with a unique product. This example also holds for other sectors.

In order to facilitate the growth of the international financial services sector the Curaçao International Financial Center (CIFC) has been established. CIFC is a public private partnership between the Government of Curaçao, the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten and the private sector. The goal of the public private partnership is to promote and develop the international financial services sector in Curaçao.

The Sector – An Overview

The Curaçao international financial services sector offers products and services tailored to the need of high net worth individuals, families, closely held businesses, up to and including internationally listed corporations. Curaçao’s financial services sector offers a wide range of products and services in the area of Asset Protection, Inbound and Outbound Finance and Trading.

The financial institutions on Curaçao are under the rigorous supervision of the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten. The supervision is executed in close cooperation with the Dutch Central Bank. As a consequence, the regulatory and supervisory environment in Curaçao is comparable to that of The Netherlands, meeting high standards and compliance with the anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing guidelines of the G20’s Financial Action Task Force.

Trust Service Providers
Because of Curaçao’s strong tradition in this niche, clients perceive the jurisdiction as a knowledgeable and price-competitive alternative to the numerous Anglo-Saxon solutions in the region. Curaçao is home to over 90 trust service providers and all major corporate management providers that offer domiciliation and management to all sorts of international clients.

International Banks
Curaçao has a variety of international banks from different regions in the world, with a strong presence of international banks from Latin America. The international banks conduct a wide range of international banking transactions for individual, institutional and corporate clients throughout the world. In addition, the international banks offer a broad range of commercial banking services, like foreign currency bank accounts. Curaçao has an beneficial tax regime to facilitate international banks operating from Curaçao.

Fund Administrators
As recently as 2008 Curaçao was named the number one location for hedge fund administration services, outperforming jurisdictions like Singapore, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the Cayman Islands. Curaçao is regarded as one of the few jurisdictions in the world that can deliver the highest level of fund administration services. The price/quality ratio, well-educated and experienced staff and a strong legal and regulatory framework are the reasons Curaçao can provide high quality fund administration.

Family Office
Curaçao is an ideal location for family offices, and many have been operating here for generations. Due to its stable political climate as part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, its sophisticated tax regime and its geographic location close to Latin America, it is regarded as a safe haven for families to set up and manage their affairs from. Curaçao is one of the few highly developed civil law jurisdictions in the Caribbean, surrounded by numerous Anglo-Saxon fast-track jurisdictions that can provide the stability and low profile a family office seeks.

Captive Insurance
As evidence of the broad knowledge and experience of its workforce, members of the Curaçao financial services sector are also offering re-insurance activities that either focus on third party or group activities. Curaçao has recently proposed changes to its existing captive insurance legislation that allows the industry to continue to work in a highly competitive and increasingly global environment.

Free Zone
Curaçao has two free zones: the Harbor Free Zone Distribution Center and the Airport Free Zone Merchandise Center. Curaçao’s Free Zones are fenced-in areas where goods can be stored, displayed, packed, manufactured, released from bond and where services, for example regional repair centers, may be rendered.  Import, export and transit are completely duty-free and special tax incentives are provided to free zone companies. The Curaçao Free Zones are being regulated by the free zone law, and is one of the tools supporting the development of Curaçao as a Logistics and Distribution Center. The activities must be focused on trading with or providing services to consumers and companies outside of Curaçao.

Telecommunication / E-Commerce / E-Zone
The telecommunications infrastructure in Curaçao is highly- developed with broadband Internet access on par with world financial services centers. Curaçao has top tier data centers and offers a high-speed telecommunication infrastructure providing reliable state-of-the-art global communications. Curaçao’s redundant fiber connectivity provides intercontinental linkages by means of multiple submarine cables and its data centers offer clients the ability to maintain critical information assets in a reliable and highly secure environment. Curaçao is home to a several E-Zones. E-Zones are specific appointed areas from which business can be conducted with the rest of the world. Services that are recognized under this legislation are amongst other: on-line travel agencies, international trade and e-commerce, IT and application related services and most type of business conducted over the Internet. E-Zone companies can benefit from favorable tax facilities as long as they are physically located and officially admitted in an E-zone.

AMS-IX Caribbean
Curaçao is home to AMS-IX Caribbean, the biggest internet exchange in the region and is important peering point in the exchange of electronic data from Latin America to the rest of the world and vice versa. AMS-IX is an integral part of the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX). With almost 600 Interconnected IP networks, AMS-IX is the largest Internet Exchange in the world and giving it a dominating position in global Internet traffic.

Dutch Caribbean Securities Exchange (DCSX) is the international securities exchange in Curaçao and lists bonds, equity and funds. The DCSX is licensed by the Minister of Finance and has a set of well-defined rules to regulate and supervise the market and its participants. Because of its efficient listing procedure, the rigorous supervision by the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten and its civil law legal framework, the DCSX is quickly becoming a listing destination of choice for especially Latin America.

Accountants & Legal
Curaçao’s financial services sector has a broad base of accounting, tax and legal experts. All Big 4 accounting firms have long been present in Curaçao, in some cases for more than half a century. Although the legal system of Curaçao is based on civil law, the professionals also have the know-how when it comes to the common law structures. The financial services professionals have in-depth knowledge of the most complex products in the financial arena, from financial engineering to auditing multi-national listed businesses, which meets the highest international standards and principals.

E. Ys
Chairman Curaçao International Financial Services Association (CIFA) and former Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles

A. Adams
Chairman Association of International Bankers (IBA) and CEO of AIC

R. Römer
CEO Curaçao International Financial Center (CIFC)