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UK should run British Virgin Islands, says report as premier arrested on drug charges

UK should run British Virgin Islands, says report as premier arrested on drug charges
BVI’s constitution should be suspended for up to two years, a report by a British judge recommends

The governance of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) is “appallingly bad” and should be dissolved, a report says after the territory’s premier was arrested on drugs charges.

An inquiry, led by retired British judge Sir Gary Hickinbottom, was commissioned last year amid claims about corruption and misuse of taxpayers’ money.

Under Mr Hickinbottom’s recommendations, BVI – a British overseas territory of more than 40 islands in the Caribbean – would have its constitution suspended for up to two years and would be effectively returned under direct rule of London.

Publication of the long-delayed report was brought forward after BVI premier Andrew Fahie was arrested and accused of drug trafficking and money laundering after a sting operation.

He and Oleanvine Maynard, managing director of the BVI port authority, were both arrested on charges of conspiring to import more than 5kg of cocaine into the US, as well as money laundering, the Miami Herald reported.

<p>British Virgin Islands premier Andrew Fahie </p>

British Virgin Islands premier Andrew Fahie

They met with undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents posing as cocaine traffickers to check out an alleged shipment of $700,000 (£560,000) in cash on an aeroplane that they believed was going to the BVI, the authorities reportedly told the newspaper.

On Friday, the pair appeared by video link at a court in Florida, and will both remain in custody until a bond hearing on Wednesday.

A third person, Kadeem Maynard, the son of the BVI’s port authority managing director Ms Maynard, was also arrested in connection with the undercover DEA case, but not in Miami, according to the Herald.

UK foreign decretary Liz Truss said that the arrests showed the need for “urgent action”.

Ms Truss had instructed the minister for overseas territories, Amanda Milling, to travel to the BVI immediately to speak to the governor John Rankin, and key stakeholders, before the government would announce “a clear path forward”.

In a statement, Ms Truss said the review had been launched in January 2021 to address “significant concerns about the deteriorating state of governance in the British Virgin Islands, as well as the potential vulnerability of the islands to serious organised crime”.

<p>A detention center in Miami, where Andrew Fahie and Oleanvine Maynard have been held </p>

A detention center in Miami, where Andrew Fahie and Oleanvine Maynard have been held

In a televised statement BVI governor John Rankin, who it is recommended should take over the rule of the territory, pledged that his overriding concern would be the best interests of the people of the BVI .

He promised to be “ensuring transparent, honest and open governance”.

Acting premier, Natalio Wheatley, said that governance problems could be addressed without suspending the constitution as Mr Hickinbottom’s report is recommending.

He told BBC Radio ‘s The World Tonight he did not believe the BVI population wanted to see the constitution suspended because they supported democracy.

“Every country in the world has challenges with governance, including the UK,” Mr Wheatley said.

The BVI – a popular tax haven – operates as a parliamentary democracy, with the premier acting as the head of the elected government alongside the governor, who is appointed by the UK government.