KNOWLEDGE BASE

KEY CORPORATE FEATURES

GENERAL INFORMATION

The Cook Islands comprises a group of 15 islands located in the South Pacific between Tahiti in the east and Samoa and Tonga in the west. The main island of Rarotonga is 3,000 km northeast of Auckland, New Zealand. The Cook Islands consists of two main groups, a southern group of nine "high" islands which are of volcanic origin and the northern group which comprises of six atolls. The majority of the population lives in the southern group.

Population

Total population of the Island group is approximately 19,000. The indigenous population is Polynesian but English is spoken by most of the community.

Political Structure

Great Britain proclaimed a Protectorate over the Cook Islands in 1888 and in 1901; the Islands were ceded to New Zealand. The Cook Islands became fully self-governing in 1965 under the Cook Islands Constitution Act 1964. Since obtaining self-government, the Cook Islanders have retained New Zealand citizenship.

The Government has reaffirmed continuing support and encouragement for the development of Rarotonga as a financial centre.

There are two main political parties; the Democratic Alliance Party and the Cook Islands Party, which between them hold all seats in Parliament. Both parties support the Cook Islands status as an offshore financial centre. Executive authority is vested in Her Majesty the Queen. The Queen's Representative is appointed upon the advice of the Cook Islands Government. Executive Government lies with a cabinet comprising the Prime Minister and nine other Ministers appointed by the Prime Minister. The Cook Islands has growing international stature and is a member of the South Pacific Forum, the Asian Development Bank and the Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

Infrastructure and Economy

The Cook Islands economy is primarily tourism based however there has been a substantial expansion in the offshore industry with the advent of innovative and progressive legislation to facilitate the establishment of a variety of offshore structures including international business companies, offshore banks, offshore insurance companies and wealth preservation trusts.

Air New Zealand operates various flights through Rarotonga to Auckland, Tahiti, Hawaii, Los Angeles and Fiji, which provide direct access to the United Kingdom, USA, South East Asia, Australia as well as Europe. Rarotonga has a satellite international telephone and facsimile system. Direct dialing to Rarotonga is available from most countries. Internet and e-mail access is also freely available.

Language

The official language is English however Cook Islands Maori is spoken widely.

Currency

New Zealand Dollar.

Exchange Control

Only in relation to certain dealings in New Zealand Dollars. There are no local restrictions on the movement of funds to or from the Cook Islands in other currencies and funds may be held and business transacted in the Cook Islands in any currency.

Type of Law

Based on English Common Law.

Principal Corporate Legislation

The International Companies Act 1981-1982.
Limited Liability Company Act 2008

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COOK ISLANDS COMPANY INFORMATION

Type of company for international Trade and Investment

International Business Companies, which may be limited by share or by guarantee, or which may be no liability, unlimited companies and mutual companies.

Procedure to Incorporate

Filing of Memorandum of Incorporation with the Registrar of International Companies by a licensed trustee.

Restrictions on Trading

Cannot trade within the Cook Islands or undertake the business of banking or insurance unless licensed under the Offshore Banking Act or the Offshore Insurance Act.

Powers of Company

A Cook Islands International Company has the same powers as a natural person.

Language of Legislation and Corporate Documents

English.

Shelf Companies Available

Yes.

Time to Incorporate

Three days.

Name Restrictions

Anything identical to or similar to a company already incorporated.

Language of Name

The name can be in any language but must be accompanied by a translation in English.

Suffixes to Denote Limited Liability

Limited or Ltd.

Disclosure of Beneficial Ownership to Government Authorities

No.

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COOK ISLANDS COMPLIANCE

Issued Shared Capital

There are no minimum requirements.

Classes of Shares Permitted

Preference shares, redeemable shares, shares with or without voting rights and shares of no par value.

Taxation

International entities including International Companies are exempt from taxation. A fee of US$300 is payable on the registration of the company and US$300 annually thereafter.

Financial Statements

All companies must lodge annual returns accompanied by audited accounts however this latter requirement can be dispensed with by company resolution.

Directors

The minimum number of directors is one. Directors may be either a body corporate or a natural person. They may of any nationality and need not be resident in the Cook Islands.

Company Secretary

A Cook Islands resident secretary must be appointed.

Shareholders

The minimum number of shareholders is one.

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HOW TO PROCEED

A bespoke 'offshore' solution can be complex and requires careful planning and execution. We therefore encourage our clients to contact us directly, without obligation, for a Free Initial Consultation.

Our experienced consultants will gladly assist with advice on how to approach your particular challenge.

To make contact with a consultant at one of our offices who speaks your language, click here for a full list of our office contact details.


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