‘Corrupt to the core’ Caribbean prime minister gets bail in drug case

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FILE – This photo released by the British Virgin Islands Government Information and Public Relations Department on April 22, 2022 shows British Virgin Islands Prime Minister Andrew Alturo Fahie. Fahie, charged with drug trafficking following a US government sting in South Florida, was released Wednesday, May 4, on $500,000 bond. In a surprise ruling, federal court judge Alicia Otazo-Reyes in Miami rejected prosecutors’ argument that Fahie would flee the United States if released pending trial on cocaine charges. (British Virgin Islands Government Information and Public Relations Department via AP, File)

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The prime minister of the British Virgin Islands, whom US prosecutors have described as ‘corrupt to the core’, has been handed a $500,000 bond that could see him out of jail as he awaits trial on related charges to a narcotics injection in the United States.

In a surprise ruling, federal court judge Alicia Otazo-Reyes dismissed prosecutors’ argument that Andrew Fahie could flee the United States and possibly engage in criminal activity if released.

Instead, she said he could stay in Miami, confined to his two college-aged daughters’ rented apartment, if he and his family surrendered their passports and he wore an ankle strap monitor. in addition to paying the company’s substantial surety bond.

Assistant United States Attorney Frederic Shadley said the government would appeal the decision, meaning it is unclear when and if Fahie will be released.

Fahie, 51, was arrested at a Miami airport last week in a US Drug Enforcement Administration sting after receiving what looked like $700,000 in cash, but what was actually counterfeit bill notes, which were to be flown back by private plane to the British Virgin Islands in Fahie’s name. Its ports manager, Oleanvine Maynard, was also arrested.

Fahie stood handcuffed shaking his head in disagreement as Shadley described in court how the politician boasted in recorded conversations with a DEA informant that he had 15 to 20 years of criminal activity under his belt.

“Oh, no no no, not my first rodeo at all, NOT, MY FIRST RODEO, AT ALL,” Fahie can be heard laughing in the recording, according to a government filing ahead of Wednesday’s bond hearing.

Posing as a member of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, a DEA informant repeatedly met with Fahie, Maynard, and Maynard’s son to discuss a deal that would send thousands of kilograms of cocaine from Colombia via the Virgin Islands Britain and Puerto Rico, Miami and New York, according to the complaint.

In exchange for bribes and 10% – or about $7.8 million – for every 3,000 kilograms (6,600 pounds) load of cocaine sold in Miami, Fahie and his co-defendants reportedly agreed to provide passage safe for drug shipments and create a network of shell companies to launder the proceeds.

“So it’s the full seven?” Fahie reportedly asked the DEA informant who accompanied him to the Miami airport where he was arrested.

According to the criminal complaint, Fahie told the DEA informant that he was close to a known drug trafficker on the Caribbean island as well as an unidentified political associate from Senegal whom he agreed to talk about gun smuggling. During those conversations, he asked the DEA informant to pay more than $100,000 to settle a debt with the Senegalese, the complaint states.

“He’s shown in this case that he’s corrupt to the core and believes he’s above the law,” Shadley said. “He was a public official who was sworn to uphold those laws, but he broke them again and again.”

Fahie’s lawyer, Theresa Van Vliet, disputed that characterization and said her client would plead not guilty when arraigned later this month.

She claimed that because the British Virgin Islands is a British Overseas Territory, US courts have no jurisdiction over Fahie.

To support this claim, she presented as evidence what she called a “diplomatic note”, signed by an unidentified official from the Prime Minister’s office in Road Town asking for his “immediate and unconditional release”. The request was sent to the International Affairs Office of the Department of Justice.

Fahie’s former allies seem to have disavowed the letter, however.

In a brief announcement on Wednesday, Acting Prime Minister Natalio Wheatley said the letter was sent in error by a “rogue” official and did not reflect the government’s position.

Van Vliet also presented copies of correspondence showing that the Prime Minister’s Office asked Miami International Airport to provide protocol assistance to Fahie and his wife when they traveled to the United States on April 24 for “official business”.

Before arriving in Miami, Fahie was scheduled to travel to Barbados to attend a banking conference alongside Representative Maxine Waters, chair of the US House Financial Services Committee, and other unidentified members of Congress, according to correspondence.

While Judge Otazo-Reyes dodged the question of immunity, she seemed persuaded by Van Vliet’s argument that keeping Fahie in detention would prevent him from carrying out his official duties at a critical time for islands, as authorities consider suspending the territory’s constitution in an attempt to clean up endemic corruption.

“These are the most serious tasks he could and should do,” said Van Vliet, the former head of the Justice Department’s narcotics division in Washington.

Even before his arrest, Fahie was under pressure from a UK-led special inquiry investigating corruption on the island chain east of Puerto Rico where around 35,000 people live.

Governor John Rankin, who is Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in the islands and her ultimate executive authority, said the arrests prompted him to release – earlier than originally planned – the commission’s report, which concluded that officials, including allies of the prime minister, had fraudulently spent millions of dollars on projects that had no public interest.

In a bid to clean up the government, the commission recommended suspending the islands’ constitution for two years and returning the territory to self-rule by officials in London.

In a speech over the weekend, Wheatley said he wanted to avoid direct government by Britain, but favored working quickly with Rankin and opposition lawmakers in the islands to respond. concerns about good governance.

“Direct rule is not an acceptable option for us,” Wheatley said. He said it would “undermine all the progress our people have made over the generations” since 1950, when a local legislature was launched.

If convicted, Fahie faces a minimum of nearly 20 years in prison.

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Follow Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman

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