The leader of the British Virgin Islands, Andrew Fahie, has been detained in the US on suspicion of trafficking drugs through the Caribbean Island.
He was arrested in Miami after undercover agents from the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) posed as members of a Mexican cartel.
The 51-year-old leader, the head of the islands’ ports Oleanvine Maynard and her son are now in custody in the US.
Here Sky News looks at how the operation was carried out.
How is the British Virgin Islands governed?
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) is a British overseas territory in the Caribbean made up of 40 islands.
It is a parliamentary democracy. Residents there elect a premier to be their leader, which has been Andrew Fahie since 2019.
The Queen is head of state and is represented by a governor, which is currently John Rankin, appointed by the UK government.
The BVI economy relies heavily on offshore finance, with financial services accounting for almost half of its GDP, and the 2017 ‘Panama Papers’ investigation revealed it was a widely-used tax haven.
Last January judge Sir Gary Hickinbottom began an independent inquiry into corruption on the island.
It has long faced allegations of state corruption, including allegations £5m of public money was spent on an imaginary airport.
Mr Fahie’s arrest this week does not relate to that investigation, Mr Rankin has confirmed.
How did its leader come to be arrested?
The investigation into Mr Fahie was carried out by the DEA who used an informant and other undercover agents to liaise with him, his head of ports and her son.
According to an affidavit by a DEA special agent, the probe began in mid-October 2021 when the informant met with a group of self-proclaimed operatives of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah over claims they had business links to southern Florida.
Over the course of several meetings, the informant asked the group to help use the island of Tortola on the BVI to ship cocaine from Colombia to the US.
The informant said the island – where most of the BVI’s population is – could be used as a “temporary storage port for drugs”.
The “subsequent laundering of drug proceeds” and “introduction to senior BVI officials” were also discussed, with the latter “offering protection” but “requiring payment”.
A member of the terror group offered to set up a meeting with Mr Fahie, while another said they “owned” the islands’ head of ports, Ms Maynard.
DEA informant posed as member of El Chapo’s cartel
In March this year the DEA informant met with Ms Maynard and her son Kadeem Maynard on Tortola and then in St Thomas on the US Virgin Islands.
The informant posed as a member of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, which used to be run by the imprisoned drug lord ‘El Chapo’ Guzman.
The DEA affidavit says he told the pair he wanted help moving thousands of kilos of cocaine from Colombia, through Tortola, to Puerto Rico and then on to Miami and New York where it would sell for between $26,000 and $38,000 per kilogram.
They would be offered a cut of the proceeds, which Ms Maynard said would be kept inside “shell companies”.
She added she could “process your paperwork, so you can come into the territory for a couple days, and then move on… that is easy”.
‘Fahie is a little crook – he’s not always straight’
Both sides said they would need to speak to Mr Fahie and another senior BVI official for the operation to work.
Ms Maynard is claimed to have said of the island’s leader: “I know the man, if he sees an opportunity, he will take it… I know the type of person he is.”
Her son said his mother “knows the Premier” and “she can go to him at any time and he would say ok”.
“You see, with my Premier, he’s a little crook sometimes… he’s not always straight,” he added.
After meeting with Mr Fahie in the days that followed, Mr Maynard told the informant that the “head coach wants to play with the team this season”, referring to the premier being on board with the plan.
According to the affidavit, Mr Fahie said he would need $500,000 as an up-front payment in return for facilitating use of the islands’ ports and airports.
Mr and Ms Maynard explained separately to the informant the premier was “skittish” about sting operations because of the ongoing corruption inquiry on the island.
Mr Fahie said he wanted to be sure the informant wasn’t working for the DEA, saying in one phone call: “It took me 20 years to get here, and I don’t want to leave in 20 minutes.”
The informant assured him he was a ‘fixer’ for the cartel who simply had a business proposition for him.
Cocaine shipped in buckets of paint
They agreed to meet with Mr and Ms Maynard on Tortola in April.
During the meeting at a “very large, nice stone house” on the island, the informant said they wanted to bring 3,000kg of cocaine into BVI at a time, disguised in 5kg buckets of waterproofing paint.
They discussed the potential profits to be made from producing the cocaine in Colombia and shipping it to the US.
Using a calculator, Mr Fahie estimated them to be $78million and asked for a 10% cut.
During the meeting, the informant also offered to help Mr Fahie with his re-election campaign in return for helping choose his ultimate successor, so they too would allow drug shipments.
Fake seizures organised to make Fahie appear to be tackling drugs
They agreed on the 3,000kg trial run, followed by four months of further 3,000kg hauls several times a month.
The informant suggested organising fake seizures of drugs and money so that Mr Fahie would appear tough on drugs.
According to the affidavit, Mr Fahie laughed and said the informant had “thought of everything” and that the British had been trying to “get him out for years”.
Towards the end of the meeting, Mr Fahie told Ms Maynard to leave the room before telling the informant he needed $83,000 in cash to pay a debt to someone in Senegal he had helped “fix” some political problems there.
The informant agreed and said that on 27 April they would meet Mr Fahie and Ms Maynard in Miami and arrange for $700,000 in cash to be left on a private jet at Opa Locka Airport.
It would be flown back to the BVI and taken to another Caribbean island, St Martin, where the informant and Mr Fahie could meet the man from Senegal and pay back the money.
As a goodwill gesture at the end of the meeting the informant gave Mr Fahie $20,000 to “seal the deal”.
On 27 April in Miami the informant and an undercover DEA officer met Ms Maynard to discuss the deal that had been struck with the BVI premier.
The source explained that the drugs would start coming from Colombia to St Thomas on the US Virgin Islands on 30 April and that they would be a point of contact in Tortola.
Ms Maynard said the boats carrying the drugs wouldn’t even need to enter the port as she would be able to see them come in from her office.
Fahie and Maynard arrested at Florida airport
According to the affidavit, the next day the informant and undercover agent arrived at Mr Fahie’s house in southern Florida to pick him up and take him to Opa Locka Airport where he was travelling to Philadelphia on a private plane.
The informant said he wanted to show Mr Fahie something before he left.
Boarding a different plane, he revealed the arranged $700,000 in designer shopping bags, and said it would be later put in suitcases but he wanted the premier to check it first.
Mr Fahie agreed and they all got off the plane where law enforcement officials were waiting to arrest him.
He responded by asking: “Why am I being arrested, I don’t have any money or drugs?”
Later that morning the source and the undercover agent picked up Ms Maynard from her hotel in Miami and drove her to the same airport.
She too was brought aboard the private jet and shown the money, before being given $200,000 for her part.
As they left the plane, she was arrested by law enforcement.
The DEA special agent who wrote the affidavit is proposing charging Mr Fahie, Ms Maynard and Mr Kadeem with conspiracy to import cocaine and money laundering.