I have been preparing for many weeks an article that outlines the requirements for foreign charter vessels to operate in the British Virgin Islands and was set to go to print with that this morning. Until, this weekend a bit more timely BVI headline started “blowing up the internet.” Although the content of the two stories are somewhat unrelated, I felt the need to first share with you the news of the arrest of BVI Premier Andrew Fahie. He was apprehended in Miami on Friday. The charges? Drug smuggling and money laundering. The BVI Port Authority “boss” and her son were also arrested in this US Drug Enforcement Agency sting operation.
On Friday, April 28, 2022, British Virgin Islands Premier Andrew Fahie and Managing Director of Port Authority, Oleanvine Maynard, arrived in Miami. Officially, they were there for a cruise conference. Unofficially? They were there to meet with members of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel which is said to be the largest supplier of illegal drugs to the US market. The goal of the BVI officials was to accept a $700,000 payment from the group in exchange for allowing them to use the BVI ports for trafficking 5 kilos (11 pounds) of cocaine.
Fahie and Maynard had previously met with these associates on April 7 in Tortola and organized a “test run” of their payment exchange in Florida later in the month. Once in Miami, Fahie and Maynard boarded a private jet to inspect shopping bags filled with the $700k payout, according to the affidavits. Little did the Premier and his associate know that the “cartel” members they were meeting were actually DEA agents. And that their illegal actions were the target of a sting operation that was launched by the DEA in October 2021.
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.- BBC World News
I think it is important to mention here that this is not the ONLY investigation the Premier has been sitting at the heart of this year. In January of last year, the crown launched an investigation into the BVI government due to reports of corruption and dishonesty amidst local operations of BVI officials. Just a little background before I go deeper into this: The BVI operates as parliamentary democracy with the premier, an elected official, working alongside the governor who is appointed by the crown.
Although, the two investigations are unrelated, the recent arrests prompted an immediate release of the small encyclopedia of a 700 plus page report which was not set to be released until June.
The Commission of Inquiry (COI) report, prepared by COI Commissioner Sir Gary Hickenbottom, points to “serious dishonesty” from government officials. An article from BVI News quotes BVI Governor John Rankin:
“The Commissioner concludes that there was overt manipulation by the executive of institutions which are established by the legislature to perform public functions as independent bodies. He found overwhelming evidence that the independence of such boards has been “severely – and, at times, cynically and with apparent disdain – eroded,”
So, as of yesterday, Governor Rankin is seeking a two year takeover of the BVI by the UK Government with a temporary suspension of the BVI constitution in order to clean up the apparent corruption. The elected Virgin Islands Party (VIP) are seeking Premier Fahie’s resignation and pushing to get Deputy Premier, Dr Natalio Wheatley into the driver’s seat for a smooth transition.
Ok, so what does all of this mean? Well, in short, things are kind of a mess right now. Customs and Immigration are amongst two of the many locally operated government offices being held under scrutiny in the release of the COI at present. And, joining Premier Fahie in his dilemma in Miami are managing director of the Port Authority, Maynard, who was appointed to her role in 2021 and her son, Kadeem Maynard, who was detained in the USVI. All of whom are being charged with money laundering and drug conspiracy charges. So, I think it’s probably safe to say that things could change rather quickly for government policies and protocols in the BVI…
Tomorrow, I’ll take a deep dive into the processes that are CURRENTLY being presented to foreign charter operators who wish to bring guests into the BVI. On November 1, 2021, new regulations were presented with a healthy amount of hoops to jump through. On March 1, those regulations were made even more challenging. And, even in light of these recent and unfolding events, I’m going to move forward with publishing what I have prepared tomorrow. Because it is important information for you, as guests, as to the WHY USVI boats aren’t flocking to the BVI right now. And also as a guideline for charter companies to use as it relates to current policies. BUT, I would imagine, based on the above content reflecting a government in possible transition, we will be seeing another shift again in the near future. In which direction…Well, I honestly have no idea.