Former BVI Premier Andrew Fahie Convicted on Drug Trafficking Charges in the United States

Former BVI Premier Andrew Fahie Convicted on Drug Trafficking Charges in the United States

This article, written by Gavin Voss, was originally published by Insight Crime, a Medellín-based foundation dedicated to the investigation and analysis of crime and security in Colombia and Latin America. (Photo credit: Government of the Virgin Islands)

A former premier of the British Virgin Islands has been convicted on drug trafficking charges in the United States, highlighting how systemic corruption makes the strategically located island territory a formidable cocaine trafficking hub.

On February 8, a jury in the Southern District of Florida found Andrew Fahie, premier of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) from 2019 to 2022, guilty of drug trafficking and money laundering, according to court records.

“The Government and people of the Virgin Islands respect the role of the court in the administration of justice,” the Virgin Islands Government said in a press release.

Fahie was arrested in April 2022 along with the head of the BVI port authority, Oleanvine Maynard, following a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sting operation involving a confidential informant dubbed “Roberto Quintero,” who posed as a Sinaloa Cartel drug trafficker.

In subsequent meetings between the informant, Fahie, and Oleanvine, the officials agreed to provide protection for a series of 3-ton cocaine shipments trafficked through the British Virgin Islands and on to Puerto Rico, according to a DEA affidavit. From there, the drugs would be shipped to Miami and New York.

Quintero and Fahie also discussed setting up shipments of low quality cocaine that would be seized by authorities in the British Virgin Islands. This would make it seem like Fahie was taking active steps against drug trafficking, the affidavit highlighted.

Fahie is scheduled to be sentenced in April and faces up to life in prison. Both the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency and the DEA declined InSight Crime’s request for comment on the case.

The former BVI premier joins former Panamanian President Manuel Noriega as the only other head of government in Latin America and the Caribbean to have been convicted in the United States for drug trafficking. However, former Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández will stand trial for drug trafficking starting February 20. Prosecutors have accused him of receiving millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for protecting a vast cocaine trafficking network.

InSight Crime Analysis

Fahie’s case exemplifies how high-level corruption makes the tiny British Virgin Islands – with a population of only about 30,000 people – an outsized player in the international cocaine trade.

“Almost everywhere, the principles of good governance, such as openness, transparency, and the rule of law, are ignored,” according to an April 2022 inquiry by the British government into the local BVI government, which was released just one day after Fahie’s arrest.

Securing political influence in the British Virgin Islands is important for organized crime due to the nation’s strategic geography. The islands lie just miles from US territory in the US Virgin Islands and close to major cocaine transshipment points like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

In 2022, the year Fahie was arrested, Police Commissioner Mark Collins said authorities seized 11 tons of cocaine. This was more than the amounts seized that year by Honduras (7.1) and Guatemala (5.9), both prominent transshipment points in their own right.

Even in Fahie’s absence, recent seizures suggest traffickers still see the island territory as a useful transshipment point. In July 2023, authorities intercepted 2 tons of cocaine in Anguillan waters that they believed were headed towards the neighboring British Virgin Islands. Other major seizures included that of a cocaine-laden airplane in August and a 1.2-ton seizure in the Caribbean Sea the following month.

The Royal Virgin Islands Police Force did not respond to InSight Crime’s request for comment on the continuing seizures and seizure data.

But while location plays a role, the corruption unmasked during Fahie’s trial likely continues to facilitate drug trafficking through the islands. In January 2024, former governor John Rankin highlighted how progress on anti-corruption and good governance commitments had “significantly stalled,” which could pave the way for corrupt officials to continue moving cocaine through the islands.

This article, written by Gavin Voss, was originally published by Insight Crime, a Medellín-based foundation dedicated to the investigation and analysis of crime and security in Colombia and Latin America.

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