The trial of Andrew Fahie, former Premier of the British Virgin Islands began Monday in a Miami courtroom. The trial had been delayed several times due to wrangling over what evidence could be used, for example recordings of phone calls and Whatsapp messages.
The U.S. government made its cocaine-smuggling case against a British Virgin Island’s premier by having an undercover informant pose as a Mexican cartel trafficker.
The informant, who went by the name “Roberto,” collected hundreds of recorded conversations and text messages with BVI premier Andrew Fahie while they discussed million-dollar bribery payments for access to the British territory, a prosecutor said Monday at the start of the former politician’s drug-trafficking trial in Miami federal court.
Fahie agreed to let thousands of kilos of cocaine pass through his ports to be sold in the United States — “all so the defendant could stuff his own pockets with bribe money,” prosecutor Sean McLaughlin told jurors during an opening statement dominated by themes of “greed, arrogance and corruption.”
Yet Fahie’s defense team countered that his words will show he had no intention of using his power to enrich himself on cocaine shipments to the United States, without elaborating. Rather, one of his lawyers argued during an opening statement that Fahie was “framed” by the United Kingdom, which oversees the BVI archipelago as an overseas territory.
“He believed the U.K. government was involved in a scheme to frame him to remove him from office,” attorney Joyce Delgado told the 12-person jury.
What Delgado did not tell the jurors was that the undercover operation was directed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, not the British government. At the time of the DEA sting, the U.K. government was concluding a corruption investigation of Fahie’s administration — but British authorities said it was not related to the DEA’s sting operation.
Fahie’s demise came on April 28, 2022, when he and BVI’s port director, Oleanvine Pickering Maynard, were visiting Miami for a cruise convention. During their visit, they were lured to a Miami airport to check on a huge cash payment that was promised to them by the DEA informant pretending to be a member of the Sinaloa cartel.
The sting ended with the arrests of Fahie, 53, and Maynard, 61, leading to an indictment charging them with conspiring to import cocaine and engage in money laundering, along with attempted money laundering and racketeering. Maynard’s son, Kadeem Stephan Maynard, 32, was also arrested in the Caribbean, brought to Miami and added as the third defendant.
After his arrest, Fahie was granted a $1 million bond and allowed to live with his daughter in South Florida.
But Fahie was stripped of his official position as BVI’s premier, which he held from February 2019 to early May 2022. He’s facing trial alone in Miami federal court — and up to life in prison if convicted of all four charges in the indictment — since the two co-defendants already pleaded guilty to the cocaine-smuggling conspiracy. Oleanvine Maynard, the former BVI port director, is scheduled to testify as a government witness during the two-week trial, according to a court filing. So are several federal agents.
Fahie and Oleanvine Maynard were arrested by Drug Enforcement Administration agents when the foreign officials went to Miami-Opa-locka Executive Airport to check out the purported $700,000 cash payment on an airplane that they believed was destined for them in the British Virgin Islands, according to court records.
Oleanvine Maynard and her son, Kadeem Maynard, both detained in Miami, admitted in plea deals that the scheme involved agreeing to provide protection for the DEA informant’s purported shipments of thousands of kilos of cocaine through the Island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands to the United States in exchange for a cut of the multimillion-dollar profits.
In November, Kadeem Maynard, 32, was sentenced to nearly five years in prison. His plea agreement did not require him to testify at Fahie’s trial.
Kadeem Maynard’s attorney, Jose Rafael Rodriguez, argued that he played a “relatively minor role” in the cocaine-import scheme by introducing the DEA informant to his mother, and coordinating meetings between the informant, the mother and BVI’s premier, Fahie.
In her plea agreement, Oleanvine Maynard admitted that she introduced the informant to Fahie and together they used their authority to facilitate the purported cocaine-smuggling plan. She is scheduled for sentencing after Fahie’s trial. Her plea agreement required that she testify against Fahie.
The U.S. undercover probe began in the fall of 2021 with a series of mysterious meetings between the confidential DEA informant posing as the Mexican drug smuggler and a group claiming to be Lebanese Hezbollah operatives with connections to the Caribbean territory’s leaders, according to a criminal complaint and affidavit filed in the case.
With their help, the informant eventually met up with Kadeem Maynard, his mother, Oleanevine Maynard, and then Fahie, BVI’s premier. He then lured them into providing protection for purported Colombian cocaine shipments through the British Virgin Islands to Miami, U.S. authorities say.
Fahie still seemed suspicious of the DEA informant, asking him if he was an undercover operative. The informant said he was not and told Fahie: “Well, first of all, you’re not touching anything,” a reference to the planned shipments of cocaine.
According to the affidavit, Fahie replied: “I will touch one thing, the money.”
At the start of Fahie’s trial Monday, McLaughlin highlighted that comment to the jurors. McLaughlin, who is prosecuting the case with colleague Kevin Gerarde, said the informant and Fahie agreed that the BVI premier would receive a 12% cut of all drug shipments through the British territory to the United States.
In response to the arrests of the premier and the others about two years ago, then-BVI Gov. John Rankin issued a statement saying the U.S. government informed United Kingdom officials of the drug-trafficking case in Miami. He called it “shocking news.”
Rankin pointed out that the narco-trafficking arrests were unrelated to a U.K. corruption investigation of Fahie’s government at the time.
Corruption in the small islands of the Caribbean, which became a major drug transshipment point for U.S.-bound cocaine shipments in the 1980s, has always been a concern for the U.S. government. In recent years, U.S. officials have been helping the U.K. government in its investigation of money laundering.
Sources: Miami Herald, BBC.