Inquiry proposes British Virgin Islands return to direct UK rule

Premier and port official charged in US with conspiracy to import cocaine and launder money.

A report has recommended suspending the British Virgin Islands’ self-government and returning to direct rule, as the territory’s Premier Andrew Fahie appeared in a US court following his arrest on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

The report, released on Friday, recommends that governor John Rankin, an appointee of Queen Elizabeth II on advice from the British government, should take direct rule of the territory for two years.

The document states that the inquiry had shown “clearly that substantial legislative and constitutional change is required to restore the standards of governance that the people of the British Virgin Islands are entitled to”.

The premier, Fahie, and his chief port official, Oleanvine Maynard, were arrested on Thursday at a Miami-area airport in the US after a sting operation by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Judge Jonathan Goodman of the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida said on Friday the pair were charged with conspiracy to import five kilos or more of cocaine and conspiracy to launder money.

DEA agents at the Miami-Opa-locka Executive Airport took Fahie and Maynard into custody after they allegedly agreed to accept money from undercover agents posing as Mexican drug traffickers, the Miami Herald newspaper reported. Fahie and Maynard were to inspect a plane carrying $700,000 that they would receive in exchange for facilitating cocaine shipments through the territory, reported the Herald, citing US authorities.

Maynard’s son was additionally arrested in the affair in another city.

“The arrest yesterday of the premier of the British Virgin Islands on charges related to drugs trafficking and money laundering is extremely concerning and underlines the need for urgent action,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

Minister for Overseas Territories Amanda Milling will travel to the territory to speak with the governor, Rankin, and key stakeholders, Truss said.

“We will then announce a clear path forward,” she said.

Rankin has urged calm in the islands after news of the arrests.

The British Virgin Islands, a self-governing Caribbean archipelago, is home to approximately 35,000 people and is an overseas territory of the UK, which supervises its defence and foreign policy.

It is also one of the world’s leading offshore tax havens. Both the local government and London have been accused by anti-corruption campaigners of turning a blind eye to the illicit flows of foreign money through the territory.

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