British Virgin Islands (BVI) Premier Andrew Fahie was arrested this week in a federal sting operation in Miami. He is suspected of being involved in money laundering and a conspiracy to traffic cocaine into the US.
The governor of BVI, John Rankin, confirmed this week that Fahie was arrested on federal drug charges. He told the media that he understands that Fahie’s arrest is shocking for the BVI people, but “I would call for calm at this time.”
Oleanvine Maynard, managing director of BVI’s port authority, as well as her son also were arrested by federal law enforcement.
‘Head Coach’ Alleged Involved in Cocaine Trafficking Conspiracy
According to federal court papers filed in Miami, Fahie, often called ‘Head Coach,” allegedly was involved in a federal conspiracy to import 10 pounds of cocaine and engage in money laundering between October and April 2022.
DEA agents say in federal documents that Maynard and her son agreed with federal agents – who said they were part of the Mexican Sinaloa cartel – to make a meeting between Hezbollah terrorists and Fahie to find a place to store thousands of pounds of drugs coming in from Columbia.
The plan the federal agents offered was to store the cocaine, hidden in paint cans, in BVI for two days before shipping it to New York City or Miami.
Fahie and Maynard were arrested by federal agents in Miami after they were invited by undercover agents to observe a $700,000 shipment of cash that was intended for BVI officials for their payment in the conspiracy, federal court papers state.
British Foreign Secretary – ‘Appalled’ By The Federal Arrest
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was reportedly ‘appalled’ at the arrest. She told the media that Fahie being arrested for drug trafficking and money laundering is shocking and law enforcement needs to get to the bottom of it right away.
Truss added that she had several talks with Rankin and talked about how critical it is to look into corruption generally in BVI.
In 2021, the United Kingdom established a commission of inquiry into corruption and mismanagement in the British Virgin Islands. There have been rumors for years of cronyism, corruption, misuse of public money, and jury intimidation.
Rankin said in a public statement that the premier’s arrest was because of the work of the DEA and wasn’t connected to the commission of inquiry.
Rankin added that the commission of inquiry is focused on general corruption and governance. It didn’t focus specifically on drug trafficking. That’s why he will move ahead quickly on publishing the inquiry report so the BVI people can see the many recommendations in int.
When Fahie spoke about the commission last year, he denied corruption in BVI. He noted the key to any nation is its reputation and there isn’t any sign that BVI is corrupt.
Update – Fahie Claims Diplomatic Immunity in the United States
A few hours ago, The Miami Herald reported that Fahie has claimed as the head of BVI, he cannot be prosecuted in the US because he has diplomatic immunity. His defense attorney said because he is the island’s head of state, he cannot be arrested and detained in the US.
This matter will probably come up today when Fahie is arraigned in Miami federal court. Federal prosecutors will likely argue that the premier should be kept in custody before the federal trial because he is a major flight risk. They also will try to detain port director Maynard before trial.
Fahie’s attorney, Theresa Van Vliet, wouldn’t comment about her client’s immunity defense. However, she noted in a federal court filing that DOJ recognizes that Fahie is the head of state in his country.
Legal experts say the immunity issue isn’t often seen in federal crime cases because diplomats and heads of state are seldom accused of crimes on American shores.
The question under international law is if Fahie is seen by the Biden administration as the head of state. Or, is he a locally elected official of a small British territory?
Federal prosecutors argued in court today that the US didn’t view BVI as a sovereign nation, so the premier doesn’t qualify for immunity.
A retired federal prosecutor told the Herald that the issue is whether the US State Department has seen Fahie as the head of state of BVI since his election. If he has been recognized as the head of state, he qualifies for immunity. But if not, he can be charged and held in the US.
Some legal insiders say they are certain the federal district court judge will determine he is a head of state and the federal case will be dismissed. According to precedent, the federal court looks to the US executive branch to determine if the person is a head of state.
For instance, in the famous Manuel Noriega case, the US never saw him as a head of state. That’s why he wasn’t granted immunity for his crimes. Federal prosecutors had the position that he was a dictator in Nicaragua, but he wasn’t a head of state. A federal judge in Miami concurred, and Noriega did 20 years in federal prison.
That said, it’s possible the United Kingdom may waive his status as the head of state of BVI, so the premier would be open to federal prosecution in the United States. A decision on that matter has not been made yet.
This story is developing.