Patrick Wintour (The Guardian) reports that the United Kingdom intends to impose direct rule on British Virgin Islands as premier Andrew Fahie faces cocaine charges. Wintour writes that, “In a further twist, the islands’ premier has been arrested in a Miami sting operation on suspicion of drug trafficking.” Liz Truss (shown above) said intervention was necessary ‘to restore the standards of governance that the people of the BVI are entitled to’. More recently, SkyNews reported that Fahie will plead not guilty to drug trafficking charges, underlining that, “In a surprise decision, a US judge ruled Fahie could be released from custody as long as a large bond was paid and a number of other conditions were met.” Here are excerpts from The Guardian.
Britain is poised to impose a form of direct rule over the British Virgin Islands after the Caribbean territory’s premier was arrested in Miami on suspicion of drug running, and a UK-appointed commission of inquiry found rampant failings in governance.
Andrew Fahie appeared in federal court in Miami on Friday, a day after he was arrested by the US Drug Enforcement Agency in an elaborate sting operation that also snared the chief executive of the BVI port authority and her son. Late on Friday night it emerged federal prosecutors had charged him with cocaine trafficking and money laundering conspiracies.
Hours before his court appearance, the commission of inquiry – launched in 2021 – reported on widespread abuses, including millions of dollars of government funds that were spent each year by politicians and ministries without proper process.
In its highly critical final report, the commission, led by Judge Sir Gary Hickinbottom, recommended that the territory should have its constitution suspended, its elected government dissolved and effectively be ruled from London.
The UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, did not immediately impose direct rule but said the report showed “clearly that substantial legislative and constitutional change is required to restore the standards of governance that the people of the BVI are entitled to”.
The UK is already responsible for defence and foreign policy in the BVI, which is a British overseas territory, but Governor General John Rankin – Queen Elizabeth’s representative on the island – is now expected to take charge of all BVI domestic policy and budgets.
The report is not directly linked to Fahie’s dramatic arrest, but the British government had been clearly aware of the US Drug Enforcement Agency investigation into drug running.
After the DEA sting operation on Thursday, British ministers decided to rush out publication of the Hickinbottom report, short-circuiting a planned consultation procedure with island politicians.
The UK last imposed direct rule on an overseas territory when it took charge of the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2009, and the British government is clearly nervous over how its plans will be greeted on the islands.
The UK minister for the overseas territories, Amanda Milling, is now to fly to the BVI for discussions with local officials. [. . .]
[Photo above by Wiktor Szymanowicz/Rex/Shutterstock.]
The BVI Commission of Inquiry report is available at https://bvi.gov.vg/content/coi-report and downloadable directly as https://bvi.gov.vg/sites/default/files/resources/coi_report_print_version.pdf.