British to probe past BVI officials, departments. New effort to stave off direct rule

British Virgin Islands Drugs
Former British Virgin Island Premier Andrew Alturo Fahie.
Department of Information and Public Relations of the government of the British Virgin Islands via AP

As the dust settles following the recent arrest and narcotic drug charges against former British Virgin Islands (BVI) Premier, Andrew Fahie, British authorities are moving to enact criminal corruption and poor governance probes into several government departments, some dating back up to 12 years.

Governor John Rankin Friday announced plans to implement recommendations for the probe from a commission of inquiry report that had taken an indepth look at corruption and governance issues in the archipelago just east of Puerto Rico.

Fahie, 51, Ports Authority head Oleanvine Maynard and her son, Kadeem were all nabbed in Miami as part of a federal sting operation into alleged plans to use some of the BVI islands as protected transshipment hubs for drug shipments by Mexican cartels. Fahie was recorded detailing plans to ensure the operation went smoothly. He is on $500,000 bail.

The office of the premier, including those run by the past three premiers, the customs department, BVI Airways, the ports authority and several others will be investigated to determine the extent of malfeasance in recent years.

“There is now an urgent need to decisively move forward and in line with my responsibilities under the constitution. I have today instructed the Royal Virgin Islands police force to undertake a number of criminal investigations as recommended in the report,” Rankin said.

The sale of several parcels of prime crown lands will also form part of the probe, the governor said, noting that in one case, a former premier used his influence and political clout to block a state audit into misconduct by top government officials.

The announcement about a full scale probe into government affairs came hours after the BVI’s unity government said it had submitted a comprehensive plan of action to the British government to reform and amend the way state affairs were run in the past.

Newly sworn in Premier Natalio Wheatley did not give details about the plan but made it clear this was an effort to stave off a major recommendation in the inquiry’s report that had suggested the suspension of parts of the constitution dealing with self governance.

If implemented, London will have direct dominion over day to day affairs on the island for two years, a suggestion which has been met by widespread opposition in the islands and from Caribbean Community leaders. The BVI is an associate member of Caricom along with fellow British territories Anguilla, Montserrat, The Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). The British had re-imposed direct rule on the TCI more than a decade ago following widespread allegations of corruption and poor governance practices. Premier Weathley said the plan should improve the situation in the BVI.

“It represents our commitment to good governance and strengthening our institutions and systems of government. We want to engender a new culture in the handling of the people’s business. I am pleased to report on behalf of the government of national unity that I have submitted a proposal to UK Minister for the Overseas Territories Amanda Milling that sets out our approach to reform and presents a framework for implementation under continued democratic governance,” the premier said in a national address.

London had sent Million to the BVI in the immediate aftermath of Fahie’s arrest in Florida. She has promised to return after briefing government officials in London. She also said that no firm decision had been made on direct rule.

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