News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, May, 4, 2022: Premier of the British Virgin Islands, Andrew Alturo Fahie, was today ordered released on $500,000 surety bond by Judge Alicia Otazo Reyes of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
An attorney for Fahie made the request in a filing with Miami federal court. The judge said that contrary to the request of a U.S. prosecutor, that Fahie will not flee because he has ties to the United States, where his two daughters live.
Fahie had requested his release, claiming he is immune from prosecution because he is the elected, constitutional head of government of the British overseas territory. But the Department of Justice says no such immunity exists because the British Virgin Islands is not a sovereign nation.
He was taken into custody last week in South Florida on cocaine smuggling and money laundering, and was arrested during a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sting as he was preparing to board a private jet in Miami.
According to a criminal complaint, Fahie and Oleanvine Maynard, his ports director, had been at the airport to meet who they thought were Mexican drug traffickers but in reality, were undercover DEA agents.
In the criminal complaint, Maynard refers to Fahie as a “little crook sometimes” who wouldn’t hesitate to profit from a plan cooked up with the help of self-proclaimed Lebanese Hezbollah operatives to move mass quantities of cocaine and drug proceeds through the Caribbean island.
The shock arrest roiled the British Virgin Islands, where Fahie was already facing allegations of widespread corruption and seemed to bolster calls to suspend the constitution for two years to clean up government and return to home rule by officials from London.
Fahie, who also serves as the finance minister, was said to have traveled to Miami to attend a conference for the cruise industry and ahead of his departure had appointed a deputy to act as premier in his absence.
Gov. John Rankin, who is Queen Elizabeth II’s representative to the islands and its ultimate executive authority, said the arrests prompted him to release – earlier than originally intended – a report by a commission of inquiry launched in January 2021 to investigate allegations of widespread government fraud.
Gov. Rankin said the inquiry concluded that millions of dollars were spent on projects, some of them linked to allies of the premier, that were abandoned or found to be of no public benefit.
The commission had concluded that “unless the most urgent and drastic steps are taken, the current situation with elected officials deliberately ignoring the tenants of good governance will go on indefinitely,” Rankin told the televised news conference.
U.S. prosecutor Frederic Shadley said he plans to appeal the decision.
“The Defendant has repeatedly shown a complete and utter disregard for the rule of law, along with a willingness to obstruct justice,” Shadley wrote in a request for pre-trial detention. “He accepted bribes, committed crimes, worked with drug dealers, and agreed to pay bribes.”
Fahie’s arraignment, a court hearing typically used for defendants to formally enter a plea, is scheduled for May 25.