MIAMI / LONDON: The British Virgin Islands’ premier and chief port official were arrested Thursday at a Miami-area airport on charges of conspiring to traffic cocaine, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) said, as Britain expressed dismay over the allegations.

DEA agents at the Miami-Opa-locka Executive Airport took Premier Andrew Fahie and BVI Port Authority managing director Oleanvine Maynard into custody after they allegedly agreed to accept money from undercover agents posing as Mexican drug traffickers, the local Miami Herald newspaper reported.

Fahie and Maynard were to inspect a plane carrying $700,000 that they would receive in exchange for facilitating cocaine shipments through their Carib­bean territory, reported the Herald, citing US authorities.

The officials’ arrests “should send a clear message,” said DEA Adminis­trator Anne Milgram, in a statement.

Rankin additionally stipulated that the arrest had nothing to do with the current British investigation into corruption in the Fahie government.

“I am appalled by these serious allegations,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement late Thursday.

In addition, a highly critical inquiry into governance in the British overseas territory said on Friday that British Virgin Islands should have its constitution and elected government suspended and effectively be returned to direct rule from London.

The recommendation came from an inquiry commissioned in 2021 by Queen Elizabeth’s representative on the island, Governor John Rankin, to investigate “the corruption, abuse of office, and other serious dishonesty” in the territory’s governance.

Rankin, an appointee of Queen Elizabeth II on advice from the UK government, urged calm in the islands after the “shocking news” of Fahie’s detention.

The self-governing Caribbean archipelago is home to some 35,000 people and is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, which supervises its defence and foreign policy.

It is also one of the world’s leading offshore tax havens. Both the local government and London have been accused by anti-corruption campaigners of turning a blind eye to illicit flows of foreign money.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2022

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