Premier Andrew Fahie agreed to a $700,000 (£560,000) payment to allow smugglers to use ports in the British Virgin Islands with an undercover agent, filings in the United States say.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she was “shocked” by the accusations.
Fay, the elected head of the British Overseas Territory, was arrested in Florida by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials and British Virgin Islands chief port officer Olevin Maynard. A third person, Kadeem Maynard, the son of Ms Maynard, was also arrested Thursday in connection with the DEA undercover case. The arrests came after DEA agents pretended to be cocaine dealers in the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, which is said to be the largest supplier of illegal drugs to the U.S. market and was previously run by drug lord Joaquin.
Authorities said the three were charged with conspiracy to import more than 5 kilograms of cocaine into the United States and conspiracy to launder money. In a criminal complaint filed in U.S. federal court and reviewed by the BBC, the Drug Enforcement Administration said the investigation was launched in October based on work done by a confidential whistleblower.
The filing revealed a series of alleged meetings between the trio and DEA sources, including their use of pseudonyms — with Mr Fahy, known as the “head coach.” The whistleblower reportedly said in a meeting with Mr Fahy that he was a cartel member that aimed to smuggle thousands of kilograms of Colombian cocaine worth tens of millions of dollars through the British Virgin Islands and transport the drug away into the country. From the U.S. Caribbean to Puerto Rico, then Miami and New York. The allegation alleges that Mr Fahey and the DEA informant also discussed plotting pre-determined drug offences and substandard drugs to show that BVI leaders were fighting crime on the island. He told the whistleblower at the meeting that the British government had been trying to remove him from office for years, the documents said. Mr Fahey is said to have said: “I have a lot of people, and I won’t sell them to the British scheme…they always want to arrest people, but I see what they’re doing, and I protect people.”
He and Ms Maynard were later arrested on a visit to Miami after being separately shown a private jet and signed shopping bags that authorities claimed contained $700,000.
Questions have long been raised about how the British Virgin Islands were governed. Since last January, Andrew Fahy has been under investigation for rule violations and corruption allegations. But now, the prime minister of the British Overseas Territory is in custody on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Last year, the commission made headlines when Mr Fahy was being defended by Conservative MP, former Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox.
The British Virgin Islands is a British overseas territory of more than 40 islands located in the Caribbean Sea east of Puerto Rico. It operates as a parliamentary democracy, with the prime minister serving as the elected head of government and Governor John Rankin appointed by the U.K. government. The leaked documents, known as the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, have shown the islands as a popular tax haven.
Pseudonyms and secret meetings: what’s in the court documents?
Court documents allege that BVI Prime Minister Mr Fahy and the Maynards held a series of meetings with a man they believed was from a Mexican drug cartel to discuss the transfer of thousands of kilos of cocaine. According to the documents, these meetings took place on Tortola, the archipelago’s largest island, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Ms Maynard is said to have said she could help with the paperwork and described Mr Fahy as “a bit of a cheat at times”. After allegedly contacting the prime minister, Mr Maynard reportedly sent a message to a source (believing they were part of a drug cartel) saying, “the manager wants to play football with the team this season.” Mr Fahy.
Mr Fache reportedly demanded $500,000 upfront and paid off the debt of his contacts in Senegal, with the newspaper saying he had “solved” political issues for Mr Fache. The newspaper claimed that he and Ms Maynard would receive a percentage of all cocaine sales in the United States, a deal that could be worth millions of dollars. In a phone conversation with the source, Fahy asked if the original was law enforcement and said, “It took me 20 years to get here, and I don’t want to leave in 20 minutes.” On another occasion, he is said to have complained that “The British paid him very little”.
‘Governance and corruption’
After meeting at a Miami hotel to agree on the deal’s details, Mr Fahy and Ms Maynard were flown separately on a private jet with $700,000 in cash inside the signed bags, the document said. After getting off the plane, they were detained.
Mr Fahi has said, “Because I’m being arrested, I don’t have any money or drugs.” After the United States government gave notice of the arrests, Ms Truss held talks with Mr Rankin, who was scheduled to hold an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday. He said: “British Virgin Islands Prime Minister Andrew Fahy was arrested this afternoon in the United States on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
I am appalled by these serious allegations. “Due to longstanding allegations of state corruption, an independent inquiry into island corruption was launched in January 2021. Mr Rankin confirmed that the arrest was not related to the ongoing investigation.
Mr Fahy and the British Virgin Islands Port Authority were not contacted for comment when contacted by Reuters, and the Prime Minister’s office did not immediately respond to requests for more information.