Andrew Fahie is seeking release from federal custody in Florida because the U.S. Justice Department has taken too long to file its appeal of his bond, according to a motion filed Tuesday in District Court in Miami. In response, the Justice Department said in a motion filed late Tuesday evening that the delay is not its fault and its bond appeal should not be dismissed out of hand.
Fahie, the now-former British Virgin Islands premier, has been held at the Federal Detention Center Miami since his arrest on April 28 along with BVI port 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.
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.
Pickering Maynard’s detention hearing is set for Wednesday in District Court for the Southern District of Florida. She is represented by a public defender and has filed a notice with the court that she intends to remain silent.
Magistrate Judge Alicia Otazo-Reyes had ordered Fahie free on $500,000 bail at his detention hearing on May 4 but gave prosecutors a day to appeal the decision. If he is freed, the disgraced BVI leader, his wife, and two daughters would have to surrender their passports and stay in the daughters’ Miami apartment. Fahie would also be required to wear electronic monitoring equipment.
However, prosecutors have had trouble procuring a transcript of Fahie’s detention hearing that they need to write their appeal, they said in a court filing on May 5. They have argued previously that Fahie is a clear flight risk and a danger to the community.
Now, Fahie’s lawyer is asking that he be released.
“While the delay is not believed to be of the Government’s doing, the plain fact is that Mr. Fahie’s bond status has fallen victim to a lack of compliance with the mandatory rules of this Court and, more broadly, to the statutory and Constitutional right to a prompt bond process,” attorney Theresa Van Vliet wrote in a motion filed Tuesday seeking to dismiss the government’s appeal.
“While we recognize that the failure to comply with this Court’s Rules does not fall at the feet of the Government, it is or should be, of no moment. Mr. Fahie was entitled to have this appeal well along its way by now. Through no fault of his own, that is not the case, and he continues to sit in detention in spite of a finding by a Magistrate Judge that there are conditions of release which will ensure his appearance,” Van Vliet wrote.
“That request is without basis in fact or law and should be denied by this Court,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederic Shadley wrote in the government’s response. “The District Court should be given a full chance to review the issue of detention and then make a decision whether detention is appropriate under the statutory factors set out in the Bail Reform Act. This important review should not be short-circuited based on the Defendant’s timing-related claims,” he said.
Shadley said his office expected to receive the detention hearing transcript Tuesday night and file a more thorough brief in support of a bond appeal by 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
“This appeal is particularly important, as the evidence introduced at the Pre-Trial Detention hearing showed that the Defendant was both a risk of flight and a danger to the community. If the Defendant is released while the appeal is pending, it is highly likely that he will flee from this District and escape prosecution for the crimes he has committed,” Shadley wrote.
The judge had not ruled on the matter as of Tuesday evening.
The government alleges in a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on April 28 that Fahie, Pickering Maynard, and Maynard agreed to arrange safe passage of cocaine through the British Virgin Islands in return for payments of millions of dollars in cash.
Fahie and Pickering Maynard were both arrested at Miami-Opa-Locka Executive Airport, where, according to the Justice Department’s court filing, they thought they were meeting members of the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel to get $700,000 in cash. The criminal complaint describes recorded conversations outlining apparent widespread and long-standing corruption among BVI officials and law enforcement.
The arrests led BVI Governor John Rankin to release a commission of inquiry report into corruption in the territory’s government last week 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, comprising former members of the majority Virgin Islands Party and the National Democratic Party and Peoples Virgin Islands Movement. It is headed by former acting premier Natalio Wheatley.
Under this new arrangement, each party will be represented in Cabinet “to give the best political representation as a Government in working closely with the Governor and United Kingdom on reforms, which must go well beyond the Commission of Inquiry recommendations,” Wheatley said in a statement following his swearing-in on May 5.
Hours earlier, the House of Assembly held a unanimous vote of no-confidence in Fahie to continue as premier.