Federal agents arrested the prime minister of the British Virgin Islands and the port manager of the tiny Caribbean territory Thursday at a Miami-area airport on charges of conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States and money laundering, according to US authorities.
Andrew Altoro Fahey, British Virgin Islands Prime Minister, and Olianvin Maynard, Port Authority Administration Director, have been detained by DEA agents at Miami-Oba-Luca Executive Airport.
Authorities told the Miami Herald that the foreign officials were arrested after they met undercover DEA agents posing as cocaine smugglers to examine an alleged $700,000 in cash on board a plane they believed was bound for the British Virgin Islands. DEA agents were pretending to be members of the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel.
Both government officials, who were in Miami for a cruise conference, went to the airport Thursday morning to see the alleged cash load after DEA agents told them the money was a reward for allowing the cartel’s future cocaine loads to be transported across British territory to the United States, authorities said. .
The British territory, which is an archipelago, has a population of only 30 thousand and is adjacent to the US Virgin Islands.
Fahey and Maynard, who are in federal detention, are scheduled to make their first appearance in Miami federal court on Friday afternoon.
Authorities said a third person, Cadim Maynard, the son of a BVI port manager, was also arrested Thursday in connection with the classified DEA case, but not in Miami.
The three defendants were charged with conspiracy to import more than five kilograms of cocaine into the United States and conspiracy to commit money laundering. A criminal complaint and an affidavit from the Drug Enforcement Administration were expected to be filed in Miami federal court Thursday afternoon by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
It was not immediately clear whether any of the three defendants had appointed lawyers.
In response to the arrest of the Prime Minister and others, BVI Governor John Rankin issued a statement saying that the US government had informed UK officials of the Miami drug smuggling case.
“Since this is a direct investigation, I have no further information about the arrest and cannot comment on it further,” said Rankin, who was appointed by the UK as the governor of the British Virgin Islands.
Rankin also noted that the drug-trafficking arrests had nothing to do with the UK’s current corruption investigation with Fahey’s government.
Corruption in the small Caribbean islands, which became a major drug transit point for shipments of cocaine bound for the United States in the 1980s, has long been a concern of the US government. In recent years, US officials have assisted the UK government in its investigation into allegations of money laundering in the British autonomous territories in the Caribbean.
In 1985, Norman Saunders, then prime minister of Turks and Caicos, became the first head of state accused of violating US drug laws after he was arrested by DEA agents and accused of accepting $30,000 from undercover agents to ensure the safe passage of Colombian cocaine. Through his island chain to allow flights to refuel.
He was arrested with the Minister of Development, Stafford Messick. Saunders was convicted of conspiracy to violate travel laws and travel to promote an illegal business, but was acquitted of charges that he offered to bribe undercover drug agents and conspired to import cocaine and marijuana into the United States. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Miami Herald Caribbean correspondent Jacqueline Charles contributed to this story. It will be updated when new information becomes available.
This story was originally published April 28, 2022 4:11 pm.