Former British Virgin Islands Premier Andrew Fahie may be released on bond while he faces drug and money laundering charges in Florida, a Miami judge has ruled.
Also, on Tuesday, new BVI Premier Natalio Wheatley announced that the boards that oversee the territory’s ports, tourism, airports, and social security program will be dismantled in an effort to address systemic failures and stave off direct British rule following a commission of inquiry report that detailed widespread government corruption.
Conditions of Fahie’s release from federal detention now include that he posts two $500,000 bonds, remains in his daughters’ Miami apartment 24 hours a day, seven days a week, submits to GPS monitoring, and signs a worldwide waiver of extradition, according to Tuesday’s court filing. Fahie may not leave the residence even to visit his lawyer; she must come to him, it stated.
One of the bonds is a PSB, or partially secured bond, requiring the signatures of Fahie, his daughter, and a friend. The other is a CSB, or cash surety bond, requiring a separate hearing called a Nebbia to ensure that the money for the bond was acquired legally.
Judge Kathleen Williams’ modification of Fahie’s bond – originally set at $500,000 with other conditions such as surrendering his passport and living at his daughters’ apartment – followed a hearing Monday on the government’s motion to revoke the bond altogether.
The U.S. Justice Department, which has called Fahie “corrupt to the core” in its court filings, has argued that the former BVI premier is a flight risk and a danger to the community and has vigorously opposed his release.
Fahie has been held at the Federal Detention Center in Miami since his arrest on April 28 at a Miami airport along with BVI Ports director Oleanvine Pickering Maynard on charges of conspiracy to import five kilograms or more of cocaine and conspiracy to launder money following a months-long sting operation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. According to the Justice Department, Fahie and Maynard thought they were meeting members of the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel to get $700,000 in cash.
Pickering Maynard’s son, Kadeem Maynard, was arrested the same day on St. Thomas and is being held in Puerto Rico while he awaits transport to Miami to face the same charges.
According to the federal criminal indictment, which described recorded conversations outlining apparent widespread and longstanding corruption among BVI officials and law enforcement, the trio agreed to arrange safe passage of cocaine through the British Virgin Islands in return for payments of millions of dollars in cash.
Pickering Maynard has invoked her right to silence and waived her right to a detention hearing, though she may request one in the future, according to the court filings in her case.
The arrests led BVI Governor John Rankin to release the commission of inquiry report into corruption in the territory’s government earlier this month rather than in the summer as was planned. Among the corrective measures, it proposes direct rule by Britain for a period of at least two years.
In an effort to retain some control and work with the U.K., the territory’s ministers have formed a new National Unity Government, headed by Wheatley and comprising former members of the majority Virgin Islands Party, the National Democratic Party, and the Peoples Virgin Islands Movement.
In his address to the territory on Tuesday, Wheatley announced further reforms to address long-standing governance issues, starting with dismantling the Ports Authority, Airports Authority, Social Security, and Tourism boards and appointing new members. Additionally, people will not be allowed to sit on multiple boards.
“I want to make it clear that these boards are not being dismantled because of any knowledge of wrongdoing by the most recent membership. I personally know that we have members who have made strong contributions, who are people of integrity, who have sacrificed countless hours of their time and energy, but given recent events, it is important for us to have a fresh start,” Wheatley said in his address.
“As I previously stated, it is not good practice for persons to sit on multiple statutory boards. These bodies should never be unduly influenced through the concentration of the same people sitting on several boards at the same time. Cabinet will very soon commission the development of a proper protocol for the appointment and dismissal of statutory board members, to ensure the process is transparent and that the criteria against which persons are selected for statutory boards is appropriate,” Wheatley said.
He also announced reforms to the social assistance program, placing oversight with the Social Development Department rather than the current hybrid arrangement with the House of Assembly assistance grant program.
“To be clear, we are transitioning away from your elected representatives and ministries providing social assistance to this function being done primarily by the Social Development Department. We will ensure that those in need, persons with disabilities, our golden gems, and others will not suffer while the new system is being formulated and implemented,” said Wheatley.
Additionally, a Register of Interests Act will soon be introduced in the House of Assembly “to hold us accountable as politicians,” said Wheatley. “Among other things, the legislation will make our declarations public. We are also including strong punitive measures for anyone who fails to declare their interests on time or not at all.”
The various measures announced Tuesday are not simply a reaction to the commission of inquiry recommendations, the premier said, or about what the governor and the United Kingdom want to see. “We must admit that many of our established practices are not fit for purpose and that we must change them if we want to see better public services, better infrastructure, and better economic performance. We must make changes at every level. The Government of National Unity believes change begins with us,” said Wheatley.
“I do want to remind you, change will be hard. It will be painful. People we know and care about will be affected. However, in the end, it will be for the betterment of these Virgin Islands that we love so much,” he said.