The head of British Virgin Islands’ (BVI) Port Authority has been arrested in the US on drug-smuggling and money laundering charges.
Oleanvine Maynard and her son Kadeem were held in a Miami airport as part of a sting operation that also saw the UK overseas territory’s premier Andew Fahie held.
The BVI governor, John Rankin, confirmed the news in a statement.
He said: “I realise this will be shocking news for people in the territory. And I would call for calm at this time.”
US authorities allege that Maynard, the port authority’s managing director, and her son agreed with US undercover agents posing as members of Mexico’s Sinaloa drugs cartel to set up a meeting between Lebanese Hezbollah operatives and Fahie, the Guardian reported.
This was so they could set up a place to store thousands of kilogrammes of drugs arriving from Colombia.
Court papers filed in Florida allege Fahie was involved in a conspiracy to import at least 5kg of cocaine and money laundering between 16 October 2021 and 28 April 2022.
US agents offered to store drugs in buckets of paint in the BVI before onward shipment to Miami or New York, the papers reveal.
UK foreign secretary Liz Truss said she was “appalled” by the arrests.
In 2021, the UK set up an inquiry into alleged corruption in the territory.
US operation not linked to inquiry
The panel has been told of systemic corruption and misuse of public funds.
Rankin said Fahie’s arrest was the result of a US operation led by the US Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA). He added it was not linked to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) report.
Fahie had told the UK commission last year there was no corruption in the BVI.
“The key to any country is its reputation, but so far, and thank God for that, there is no evidence provided in the CoI showing that the BVI is corrupt,” he added.
The BVI port authority has been contacted for comment.