The arrest of a sitting head of government on drug trafficking charges is almost unheard of. Nevertheless, Andrew Alturo Fahie, the Premier of the British Virgin Islands, was arrested in Miami, Florida on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.

On April 28, Fahie was arrested in Miami, Florida, alongside the head of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) port authority, Oleanvine Maynard, and her son, Kadeem, according to a statement from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

“Anyone involved with bringing dangerous drugs into the United States will be held accountable, no matter their position,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram.

The next day, the trio had their first court appearance via Zoom, with a preliminary hearing set for May 13.

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According to a report by The Guardian, the DEA investigation into Fahie began last October when a DEA informant posed as a drug trafficker from Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel visiting the island to broker drug deals. The complex affair allegedly involved the informant meeting with “self-proclaimed members of Hezbollah” who were seeking to move cocaine through BVI to Puerto Rico, Miami and New York.

This series of meetings apparently uncovered Fahie’s involvement in the drug trade, culminating with his arrest on a private jet in Miami. Fahie and his associates were carrying $700,000 in cash to pay for the transport of several tons of cocaine, stated charges filed in Florida against the trio.

The charges further state that Fahie and the DEA informant discussed setting up busts of small quantities of drugs to make it seem like the BVI government was fighting the cocaine trade.

“Today is yet another example of DEA’s resolve to hold corrupt members of government responsible for using their positions of power to provide a safe haven for drug traffickers and money launderers in exchange for their own financial and political gain,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram.

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This is not the first time Fahie has faced allegations of criminal activity. In 2003, Fahie was the subject of a US federal investigation into whether he and his wife had engaged in money laundering while Fahie was the BVI’s Minister of Education and Culture. The investigation was eventually dropped.

Large cocaine seizures have been rising in BVI, many of them since Fahie became Premier in 2019. In August 2021, a US Coast Guard vessel intercepted 1.7 metric tons of cocaine off the coast of Anegada, part of the BVI archipelago.  

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In November 2020, a record 2.3 metric tons of cocaine were seized at a property on Tortola, the territory’s largest island.

And beyond the embarrassment of having a head of government in court for cocaine trafficking, this comes at a bad time for BVI.

The day after Fahie was arrested, the British government coincidentally released a major report, after a commission investigated governance in BVI. The report found a culture of governance problems and political dishonesty, amid broader suspicions of corruption and embezzlement. It recommended that the BVI’s constitution should be suspended, its government dissolved and that a governor appointed by London should assume direct rule of the overseas territory.

While these findings are not directly linked to Fahie’s arrest, a number of concerning government expenses on infrastructure projects have been flagged, which happened both before and during his time in office. These include an alleged $7 million being spent on an airline that never saw the light of day, $32 million spent to build a cruise ship pier and as much as $55 million in overspending on improving the BVI’s hospital facilities.

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