Gibraltar: General Background To Gibraltar For Business

Last Updated: 10 October 1997

Gibraltar is a peninsula with an area of 2.75 square miles linking to the southern tip of Spain, facing the northern coast of Africa and dominating the entrance to the western Mediterranean. One of the world's famous landmarks, the Rock of Gibraltar rises to approximately 1,300 feet and has been a key strategic site for many centuries. Gibraltar's position has therefore given it a long and turbulent history and an influence over world events out of all proportion to its size and population.

Its name is a legacy of the 8th century Arab invasion of mainland Spain, when the Moorish leader Tarik based his troop-ships there. The name is derived from Gibel Tarik - the mountain of Tarik. Although it was captured and held briefly by the Kingdom of Castile between 1309 and 1333, the Rock remained as a symbol of Moslem domination of the Western Mediterranean until finally regained by Spain in 1462. Britain captured the Rock in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession. Its cession was confirmed by the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, when Gibraltar became a British possession.

Throughout its history Gibraltar has harboured successive waves of immigrants from widely differing cultural backgrounds. The establishment of British rule brought about the departure of the Rock's Spanish inhabitants and their place was taken by a miscellaneous collection of immigrants - including Genoese, Moroccan Jews and Portuguese - who combined with British settlers to form a heterogeneous community.

The Rock now has about 30,000 inhabitants, of which 26,000 are native Gibraltarians, the balance being made up of British expatriates and service personnel. English is the official language but most Gibraltarians speak and write in both English and Spanish. Gibraltar enjoys virtually full employment and also provides jobs for blue and white collar workers commuting from Spain.


Constitutionally, Gibraltar is a Crown Colony with internal self government, the United Kingdom being responsible for defence, foreign affairs, financial stability and internal security. It has its own House of Assembly, which consists of 15 elected members and two nominated members. Executive authority remains in the hands of the UK appointed Governor, who represents the Crown. The Governor is advised by a nine-member council, of which five are elected members of the House of Assembly. The legal system in Gibraltar is based on English Common and Statute Law with variations introduced by local Statute Law or Ordinances. The administration of justice in Gibraltar is undertaken by a Chief Justice. There are three courts: a Magistrates Court, a Court of First Instance and a Supreme Court. The ultimate Court of Appeal is the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.


Gibraltar enjoys a special relationship with the EU, having joined as an associate member with the United Kingdom in 1973 under the provisions of the Treaty of Rome relating to European dependent territories. However, it is excluded from the Common External Tariff, the Common Agricultural Policy and the requirements to levy Value Added Tax. Gibraltar continues to implement EU Directives, especially those in the areas of Banking, Insurance and Fund Management.


Gibraltar has an international airport and a harbour which continues to be a popular port of call for many cruise liners as a result of both its location and its free port status. Gibraltar's air links are continually improving and flights into the UK's major airports cater for the business and leisure traveller. In addition the airports at Seville, Jerez and Malaga are all within easy reach of the Rock and allow access to a wide variety of domestic and international flights.

As would be expected of an important finance centre, Gibraltar has a highly sophisticated telecommunications system which is fully digital, providing in first class international communications.


Gibraltar is now a major offshore finance centre, which has developed against a background of political stability and administrative and legal systems derived from English models. The absence of any exchange control restrictions, together with tax exemptions and concessions for certain categories of companies, non-resident individuals who do not work in Gibraltar, and trusts administered for non-residents, has created many opportunities for offshore investors and led to substantial growth in financial sector services. This has been augmented by investor protection legislation enforced by the Financial Services Commission.

The Financial Services Commission is an independent body established by statute under the Financial Services Ordinance 1991. The Commission is charged with providing investor protection in relation to Banking, Insurance, Fund Management, Company Management and Trusteeship.

The Financial Services Commissioner is appointed by the Governor acting with the approval of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. The Commission is composed of four United Kingdom and three local members, all of whom must be appropriately qualified.

There are over 400 companies licensed under the Financial Services Ordinance, including over 40 banks and investment funds, and 20 insurance companies. As regards professional support there is a strong legal profession in Gibraltar, and most of the "Big Six" accountancy firms are present on the Rock.

The banking industry is the largest element of the finance centre. Many first class European banks have operations in Gibraltar and offer a wide range of services. Bank accounts may be maintained in any generally-recognised currency and are exempt from Gibraltar taxes when held by non-residents

The unit of currency in Gibraltar is the pound sterling and there is a local note and coinage issue which is at par with sterling. There are no exchange control restrictions in force, there being complete freedom to remit funds into and out of Gibraltar and to convert funds into other currencies.


For over 30 years we in Gibraltar have been advising and assisting our clients who are based not only on the Rock but around the world. Our range of services includes:

  • Audit and accounting;
  • Local and international tax planning;
  • Establishment and maintenance of offshore companies and trusts;
  • Corporate recovery;
  • Advice on setting up operations in Gibraltar including dealing with regulatory bodies.

Further details of our range of services are set out in our brochure entitled "Profile of Our Firm".

Coopers & Lybrand is a member of Coopers & Lybrand International, a limited liability association incorporated in Switzerland


  • Profile Of Our Firm
  • Companies In Gibraltar
  • Trusts In Gibraltar
  • Asset Protection Trusts
  • Offshore Companies And Death Of The Beneficial Owner
  • Industrial And Trading Opportunities In Gibraltar
  • Insurance In Gibraltar

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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