Due to accusations that the island’s leadership was involved in drug trafficking, the UK is seeking to get the former colony of the British Virgin Islands under its direct control.
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A committee of inquiry in London hastily produced a report requesting the UK to seize direct control of the Caribbean territory of the British Virgin Islands, claiming widespread corruption, just before the premier of the British Virgin Islands appeared before a US judge on charges of cocaine smuggling and money laundering.
On Friday, BVI Premier Andrew Alturo Fahie appeared via Zoom before a US federal judge. On Thursday, he and BVI Ports Authority head Oleanvine Pickering Maynard were detained in Miami, Florida. They are accused of drug trafficking and money laundering in a plot allegedly involving Mexican cartels and Hezbollah in Lebanon, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The commission of inquiry chaired by Judge Sir Gary Hickinbottom released its final report just hours before Fahie was scheduled to appear in court, suggesting that London dissolve the islands’ elected government, suspend their constitution, and impose direct rule.
In the report, Hickinbottom claims that successive governments have “deliberately sought to avoid good governance by not putting processes in place and where such processes are in place by passing them or ignoring them as and when they wish – which is regrettably often.”
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“Unless the most urgent and drastic steps are taken,” Hickinbottom warned “with a heavy heart” that “the current situation with the elected government deliberately ignoring the tenets of good governance will go on indefinitely.” He encouraged Governor General John Rankin to seize control of the islands’ domestic policies and budgets, establish a local advisory body, and conduct a year-long constitutional review.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss stated that the report show “clearly that substantial legislative and constitutional change is required to restore the standards of governance that the people of the BVI are entitled to,” but she did not announce direct rule.
Hickinbottom’s commission was formed in 2021 in the wake of allegations of government corruption and waste, as well as accusations that the island’s leadership was involved in drug trafficking. The British government was aware of the US undercover investigation, according to The Guardian, and chose to “rush out” the 1,000-page Hickinbottom report after Fahie’s detention on Thursday.
According to an affidavit detailing the accusations against them, Fahie and Maynard were apprehended at the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport. Kadeem Stephan Maynard, Maynard’s son, has also been detained, though it is unclear when and where.
According to the affidavit, in October 2021, a DEA informant began meeting with “a group of self-proclaimed Lebanese Hezbollah operatives” on the British Virgin Islands island of Tortola, who approached Fahie’s security crew and claimed to “own” Director Maynard.
The informant allegedly met with Oleanvine and Kadeem Maynard in March, as well as both of them and Fahie on April 7, 2022, intending to pay them a portion of cocaine sales passing through BVI ports on their way to the US territory of Puerto Rico and then to the US mainland.
The informant said that he offered Fahie 12% of the projected sale price for the drugs, or $7.8 million, in exchange for funding his re-election campaign. Fahie allegedly demanded $500,000 in advance, plus an additional $83,000 to repay a debt owed to someone in Senegal.
The plan, according to the affidavit, was to set up a test run for 3,000 kg of cocaine in exchange for $700,000 in cash, which was left on a private jet at Miami-Opa Locka airport. When Fahie and Oleanvine Maynard arrived to claim the money, they were arrested.
The Virgin Islands, named after Christopher Columbus, are divided between the United Kingdom, the United States, and the US territory of Puerto Rico. Since 2002, residents of the British Virgin Islands have been British citizens. They are legally designated as a British overseas territory, previously called crown colonies.
When the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands was accused of corruption in 2009, London imposed direct rule over the territory. In 2012, full local governance was restored. In 1986-88, the Turks and Caicos Islands were similarly under direct rule after their chief minister was charged with cocaine trafficking.