British Virgin Islands premier Andrew Fahie claims immunity in cocaine trafficking case

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The premier of the British Virgin Islands has demanded his immediate release from US custody, claiming he is immune from prosecution on drug trafficking charges.

Andrew Fahie has said he cannot be tried for his alleged crimes because he is an elected, constitutional head of government of the British overseas territory.

The 51-year-old was arrested in Miami, Florida, by members of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) posing as Mexican drug traffickers.

He was subsequently charged with drug trafficking and money laundering crimes on Saturday.

In a criminal complaint, Fahie is referred to as a "little crook sometimes" by his port director, Oleanvine Maynard, who was with him at the time of his arrest.

Mr Maynard said Fahie would not hesitate to profit from a plan cooked up with the help of self-proclaimed Lebanese Hezbollah militants to move mass quantities of cocaine and drug proceeds through the Caribbean island.

The arrest shocked the British Virgin Islands, where Fahie is already facing allegations of widespread corruption.

Governor John Rankin, who is the Queen's representative to the islands, said the legal action had prompted to him to release the findings of an inquiry into widespread government fraud earlier than intended.

The review was launched in January 2021 and is not linked to Fahie's charges or his initial arrest.

Read more:
How US law enforcement stung premier in drugs probe

Mr Rankin said the inquiry concluded that millions of dollars were spent on projects, some of them linked to allies of the premier, which were abandoned or found to be of no public benefit.

"Some of them were, on their face, false," the governor added.

The report concluded that "unless the most urgent and drastic steps are taken, the current situation with elected officials deliberately ignoring the tenets of good governance will go on indefinitely", Mr Rankin said.

It also recommended any new administrative arrangement should last two years but added that ministerial government should continue "as soon as practicable".

If London accepts the recommendation, Mr Rankin - a career British diplomat - would take over the day-to-day running of the British Virgin Islands.

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