appalling | 

British Virgin Islands premier Andrew Fahie arrested on cocaine charges in US sting operation

Fahie, the elected head of government of the British overseas territory, was arrested by US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials in Florida

British Virgin Islands premier Andrew Fahie

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

The governor of the British Virgin Islands has called for calm after the premier Andrew Fahie was arrested on cocaine charges in a US sting operation.

Governor John Rankin, confirmed in a statement that Fahie had been arrested on Thursday morning, adding: “I realise this will be shocking news for people in the territory. And I would call for calm at this time.”

Premier Fahie was detained in Miami by US agents posing as cocaine traffickers from a Mexican drug cartel.

He agreed a $700,000 (£560,000) payment to allow traffickers to use ports on the islands with an undercover informant, charges filed in the US said.

The UKs Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said she is "appalled" by the allegations.

Mr Fahie, the elected head of government of the British overseas territory, was arrested by US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials in Florida, alongside senior BVI port official Oleanvine Maynard.

A third person, Kadeem Maynard - Ms Maynard's son - was also arrested on Thursday in connection with the undercover DEA case.

The arrests were made after DEA agents pretended to be cocaine traffickers from Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel - said to be the largest supplier of illegal drugs to the US market and formerly run by now-imprisoned drug lord Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán.

The plan offered by the agents was to store the drug, bundled inside 5kg buckets of paint, in the BVI for one or two days before shipment to Miami or New York.

Fahie and Oleanvine Maynard were arrested at a Miami airport after being invited by undercover agents to see a shipment of $700,000 in cash that BVI officials expected to receive for their part in the alleged plot, court papers alleged.

The informant is said to have claimed in meetings with Mr Fahie to be a cartel member aiming to smuggle thousands of kilograms of Colombian cocaine worth tens of millions of dollars through the BVI, with the drugs to be shipped to US Caribbean territory Puerto Rico and then on to Miami and New York.

Mr Fahie and the DEA informant also discussed setting up pre-arranged drug busts of money and low-quality drugs to make it look like the BVI leader was fighting crime in the islands, the charges said.

He told the informant during one meeting that the UK government had been trying for years to remove him from office, the documents claimed.

Mr Fahie is quoted as saying: "I have plenty of people, and I don't sell them out to the British with their plans... they always want to capture people, but me I see what they are doing and I protect the people."

He and Ms Maynard were later arrested on a visit to Miami, after being separately shown a private plane and designer shopping bags, which authorities said contained $700,000, according to the charges.

The trio have been charged with conspiracy to import more than 5kg (11lb) of cocaine into the US and conspiring to commit money laundering, authorities said.

In a criminal complaint filed in a US federal court, reviewed by the BBC, the DEA said the investigation was launched in October based on work carried out by a confidential informant.

Last year, the UK set up a commission of inquiry into mis-governance in the British overseas territory, which has heard allegations of systemic corruption, cronyism, jury intimidation and misuse of public funds.

In his statement, Rankin said Fahie’s arrest was the result of a US operation led by the US Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) and was not linked to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report.

“The remit of the Commission of Inquiry focused on governance and corruption and was not a criminal investigation into the illegal drug trade. To avoid unnecessary speculation, I intend to move ahead urgently on publication of the inquiry report so the people of the BVI can see its contents and its recommendations in the areas it addressed,” he said.

Addressing the commission of inquiry last year, Fahie denied that there was any corruption in the BVI. He said: “The key to any country is its reputation, but so far, and thank God for that, there is no evidence provided in the CoI showing that the BVI is corrupt.”

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