[Miami Herald] – The premier of the British Virgin Islands and the director of the small Caribbean territory’s ports were arrested Thursday at a Miami-area airport by federal agents on charges of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and money laundering, according to U.S. authorities.
Andrew Alturo Fahie, BVI’s premier, and Oleanvine Maynard, manager director of the port authority, were taken into custody by Drug Enforcement Administration agents at Miami-Opa-locka Executive Airport.
The foreign officials were arrested after they met with undercover DEA agents posing as cocaine traffickers to check out an alleged shipment of US $700,000 in cash on an airplane that they believed was destined for the British Virgin Islands, authorities told the Miami Herald.
The DEA agents were posing as members of the Mexican Sinaloa cartel. Both government officials, who were in Miami for a cruise convention, went to the airport Thursday morning to see the alleged load of cash after DEA agents told them that the money was a payoff for allowing the cartel’s future cocaine loads to be transported through the British territory to the United States, authorities said.
The British territory, an archipelago, has a population of only 30,000 and is adjacent to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Both Fahie and Maynard, who are being held at the Federal Detention Center, are scheduled to have their first appearances in Miami federal court on Friday afternoon.
A third person, Kadeem Maynard, the son of BVI’s port director, was also arrested Thursday in connection with the undercover DEA case, but not in Miami, authorities said.
All three defendants were charged with conspiring to import more than five kilos of cocaine into the United States and conspiring to commit money laundering.
A DEA criminal complaint and affidavit were expected to be filed in Miami federal court on Thursday afternoon by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. It was not immediately clear if any of the three defendants had retained attorneys.
In response to the arrests of the premier and the others, BVI Governor John Rankin issued a statement saying the U.S. government informed United Kingdom officials of the drug-trafficking case in Miami.
“As this is a live investigation I have no further information on the arrest nor can I comment any further on it,” said Rankin, who was appointed BVI’s governor by the United Kingdom.
Rankin also noted that the narco-trafficking arrests were unrelated to a current UK corruption investigation of Fahie’s government. Corruption in the small islands of the Caribbean, which became a major drug transshipment point for U.S.-bound cocaine shipments in the 1980s, has always been a concern for the U.S. government.
In recent years, U.S. officials have been helping the UK government in its investigation of money laundering allegations in the self-governed, dependent British territories in the Caribbean.
In 1985 the then-chief minister of the Turks and Caicos, Norman Saunders, became the first head of state charged with violating U.S. drug laws after he was arrested by DEA agents and accused of accepting $30,000 from undercover agents to ensure safe passage of Colombian cocaine through his island chain by permitting flights to refuel.
He was arrested along with his development minister, Stafford Missick. Saunders was convicted of conspiracy to violate travel laws and with traveling to promote an illegal business, but he was acquitted on charges that he offered to bribe undercover drug agents and of conspiracy to import cocaine and marijuana into the United States. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and fined $50,000.