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The Prime Minister of the British Virgin Islands arrested on charges of drug smuggling

The premiere in the British Virgin Islands was arrested by US drug trafficking agents and charges of money laundering at an airport in Miami on Thursday, sending shock waves across the British-administered Caribbean tax haven.

The islands’ governor, John Rankin, confirmed in a statement that agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration had arrested Andrew Fahie, the elected prime minister of the BVI, and called for calm. “I am aware that this will be shocking news for people in the area,” he said.

Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary, said she was “shaken by these serious allegations”, adding that the cabinet in British overseas territory would hold an emergency meeting later Thursday.

The prime minister’s arrest is the latest blow to the image of BVI, an archipelago in the eastern Caribbean whose small population contradicts its vast influence on the controversial world of offshore financing. More than 370,000 secret companies are registered there, controlling hundreds of billions of dollars of assets around the world.

BVI had struggled to restore its reputation after waves of damaging revelations in the Panama Papers and other offshore leaks. These revealed the extent to which officials and business magnates from around the world used secretive holding companies to hide the ownership of valuable assets from the public and sometimes to avoid taxes or hide ill-gotten gains.

The DEA was unable to provide further details about Thursday’s arrest, but a criminal complaint and a statement filed in Florida’s Southern District Court said Fahie was detained at Miami-Opa locka Executive Airport along with Oleanvine Maynard, head of the BVI Port Authority.

The court document said undercover DEA agents posing as cocaine smugglers caught Fahie and Maynard after a series of secret meetings, allegedly to discuss bribery in return for guaranteeing three-tonne cocaine shipments from Colombia through BVI to the United States.

At one of the meetings, Fahie had, according to court documents, drawn a calculator rather than calculating that his 12 percent share of the proceeds from the sale of the shipment in the United States would be $ 7.8 million. BVI’s ports and requested an advance payment.

Agents arrested Fahie, 51, Thursday morning after inspecting $ 700,000 in cash hidden in designer shopping bags on a plane at Miami-Opa Locka airport, part of his alleged payout to help traffickers, the archive says. “Why am I being arrested, I have no money or drugs,” agents quoted Fahie as saying when he was taken away.

Maynard was arrested later on Thursday in a separate dungeon after inspecting the same store of cash on the plane and was told that $ 200,000 of it was due to her, the court documents state.

Fahie, a flamboyant figure who plays the organ at his local church and begins government meetings with prayers, had cracked down on allegations of corruption at the highest levels of the BVI government and collusion with drug smugglers, as Rankin’s predecessor as governor, Augustus Jaspert, expelled.

“It is unfortunate that the former governor has made some very unsubstantiated allegations against the territory, which have the potential to damage our reputation,” Fahie told FT in an interview in January. “We urge the former governor to apologize.”

Jaspert disrupted Fahie by using colonial-era powers in January 2021 to order the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate the governance of the islands. Truss said the prime minister’s arrest showed the importance of the investigation. Its conclusions are expected to be published shortly.

The investigation was launched after police in November 2020 seized a catch of cocaine worth £ 190 million on BVI. The drugs were found on a property belonging to a police officer and were the largest drug seizure in the islands’ history.

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