Police in the British Virgin Islands opened criminal investigations into their own government on Friday, an investigation Governor John Rankin called urgent.
Officers will dissect the office of former Prime Minister Andrew Fahie, who is currently being held in a US prison awaiting trial on charges of money laundering and drug trafficking. Rankin asked police to determine Fahie’s role in obstructing an internal audit into COVID relief money.
Investigators will also look into possible criminal activity in a port development project in Sea Cows Bay, a neighborhood building scheme, public funds used for the sale of land in Road Town and general corruption within the customs office.
Rankin said criminal investigations were already underway into potential bribery in two other boondoggles: the doomed BVI Airways project and suspicious work on a high school boundary wall.
In the continuing fallout from Fahie’s arrest, BVI Port Authority board chairman Kelvin Hodge agreed to step down on Wednesday, new BVI Premier Natalio Wheatley said. Hodge’s board oversaw the work of Oleanvine Pickering Maynard, the Port Authority chief executive indicted as one of Fahie’s alleged co-conspirators in the cocaine trade.
When Pickering Maynard was appointed Chief Ports Officer in March 2021, Hodge said: “Ms. Maynard is a dedicated and committed professional who brings a wealth of experience in business management and organization.
Hodge, who has worked in public service for over 40 years, was appointed head of the ports board by Fahie in May 2020. Fahie reportedly planned to bribe police and elected officials to use BVI ports as transshipment points for cocaine and undeclared bundles of associated money, allegedly bragging to U.S. federal agents about his familiarity with drug trafficking and connections to like-minded criminals.
In appointing Hodge, Fahie said, “I continue to have tremendous confidence in the BVI Port Authority team.” Hodge owns a hardware store in the West End of Tortola and had previously worked in the Department of Information Technology, the Treasury Department and the Civil Service Commission.
Fahie, Pickering Maynard and his son, Kadeem Maynard, were all arrested in April and indicted by a Florida grand jury on Tuesday. They could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty. Initial charging documents alleged that Fahie, 51, was corrupt and engaged in serious criminal activity for much of his 23 years in public office. Although Fahie reportedly named other people to the BVI who could help with their plan, no other arrests had been made in the case as of Friday.
Wheatley said the other eight members of the ports board will also be replaced.
“Given the remaining security concerns at ports following the arrest of Chief Executive Officer Ms Oleanvine Maynard and the details of her activities described in the affidavit filed in US courts, we need to refresh the Board , so its integrity is beyond reproach,” Wheatley said in a written address. “The legal and practical issues related to the termination of the current CEO’s term are under review, and updates in this regard will be forthcoming.”
Rankin, appointed by the Queen, published a damning account of BVI self-government in April. The commission of inquiry report alleged widespread mismanagement and potential corruption. He recommended that local governance be suspended for two years and the UK take direct control until confidence in government returns. Many residents of the British Virgin Islands considered this a form of neo-colonialism.