Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said the UK Government is putting in plans to protect people on the British Virgin Islands from “corruption, criminality and poor governance” by taking over from their new leaders if needed.
Speaking in a statement on Wednesday, Ms Truss said if the new Government of National Unity (GNU) under Premier Natalio Wheatley is “not delivering the reform the people of the BVI want and deserve”, she will “take action”.
Mr Wheatley became leader on May 5 after previous premier Andrew Fahie was arrested on drug-smuggling charges and a vote of no confidence in his leadership was passed.
An inquiry into corruption in the territory, led by retired judge Sir Gary Hickinbottom, found that the citizens had been “badly served” by their government and suggested the UK take direct control of the territory.
Ms Truss said the Government would monitor the progress of the islands’ new leaders with monthly reports from each of their departments.
She said: “The people of the BVI want and deserve change and have made their desire for better governance clear.
“Elected officials know this.
“We want to support the new government in making this change and allow them the opportunity to reform.”
She added: “We have a duty to protect the people of BVI from corruption, criminality and poor governance. We will stand by them.”
The UK Government has submitted an Order in Council to the Privy Council which will be laid in Parliament so a swift change of hands can be enacted.
Fahie, 51, was detained in Miami in April over an alleged conspiracy to import a controlled substance and money laundering in an operation led by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
The territory’s director of ports, Oleanvine Maynard, was also arrested.
The string of islands inhabited by 35,000 people east of Puerto Rico is currently under a 2007 constitution giving it limited self-governance under a Governor who is the ultimate executive authority as the representative of the Queen.