As the British Virgin Islands premier faces drug trafficking and money laundering charges, a host of A-listers will be reconsidering their ties to the Caribbean utopia.
The acting premier of the scandal-ridden islands said he opposes a recommendation by the Queen’s personal representative that the UK takes direct control of the territory after his predecessor appeared in a US court on charges linked to drugs trafficking.
Andrew Fahie, 51, was detained in Miami on Thursday over an alleged conspiracy to import a controlled substance and money laundering in an operation led by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Director of ports Oleanvine Maynard and her son were also arrested.
The string of 56 islands inhabited by 35,000 people east of Puerto Rico is currently under a 2007 constitution giving it limited self-governance under a Governor who is the ultimate executive authority as the representative of the Queen.
An inquiry into corruption in the territory, led by retired judge Sir Gary Hickinbottom, found that the people of the British Virgin Islands have been ‘badly served’ by its government.
It also slammed ‘corruption, abuse of office, and other serious dishonesty’ under the leadership of premier Andrew Fahie.
Left: one of the 56 British Virgin Islands pictured on a typically beautiful day. More than 20 are uninhabited. Right: Princess Diana wears a one-piece pink swimsuit during a 1989 visit
Barack Obama while jet skiing on Necker Island, February 7, 2017
Celebrities spotted on the islands’ white beaches include Kate Moss, Taylor Swift, Heidi Klum, the Obamas, the Queen and Princess Diana – not all at the same time.
Billionaire Richard Branson, who owns 70-acre private retreat Necker Island on the north-eastern edge of the island territory, has played host to many of them.
The British Virgin Islands were Barack and Michelle Obama’s first port of call after leaving the White House in January 2017.
The newly ex-president was criticised for jet skiing with a broad toothy smile within days of Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
If the images are anything to go by, he couldn’t care less.
Other celebrities who’ve enjoyed well-documented trips to the island paradise over the years include Kate Moss – who marked her 40th there – Boris Becker, Paul McCartney and Kelly Brook.
Princess Diana (in leopard print, left) sits on the beach with Harry between her legs next to William (centre) and her mother Frances Shand-Kydd (right) with a grandchild, unidentified
Diana was pictured in a striking swimsuit during the April, 1990 British Virgin Islands trip. She walks along a private beach on Necker Island with Harry, 5 (left) and William, 7 (centre)
Not caring about the outside world appears to be a common feeling upon arrival at the British Virgin Islands.
Yet the Queen’s representative, Governor John Rankin, feels differently.
His withering recommendation came within hours of the disgraced premier’s appearance in a Miami courtroom via Zoom.
Fahie’s charges include conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to import cocaine.
Mariah Carey made an appearance during Richard Branson’s 1994 MTV Cribs episode
Harry Styles (left) hangs out with Richard Branson (fourth from left) and friends in 2013
Kiwi supermodel Georgia Fowler (left) poses for a sandy snap on Necker Island in February 2020. Right: Branson, 71, dances on a table while hosting A-list pals at his island estate in July 2016
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement late Thursday that the UK was ‘appalled’ at the government of its overseas territory after Fahie’s arrest.
She said the arrests underlined the need to release the recently concluded investigation into the alleged corruption and abuse of office under the Fahie government. The report was released on Friday – a day later.
But acting premier Natalio Wheatley said he was ‘very concerned’ by the proposal, PA reported.
Mr Wheatley said: ‘What this would mean in real terms is that there would be no more elected representatives who represent the people of the districts and the territory in the House of Assembly where laws are made for our society.
‘There also would be no government ministers to advance the public’s priorities or a cabinet to approve policy. All of this authority would be vested in the Governor.
‘The benefit of representative democracy to the public is the understanding and responsiveness of their elected representatives to their challenges, who also serve as conduits of their views, especially on reforms.’
Heidi Klum poses on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands for a 2003 H&M swimwear campaign
Pictured: beautiful beachside homes on Tortola, the largest of the 56 British Virgin Islands
The inquiry found that elected officials ‘can and do make decisions – which expend huge sums of public money and affect the lives of all those who live in the BVI – as they wish, without applying any objective criteria, without giving any reasons and without fearing any comeback’.
The report said these decisions include procurement of contracts, selling Crown Land and grants of residence.
Mr Wheatley added he believes the issues can be addressed without implementing direct rule.
Paris Hilton and Carter Reum celebrate their honeymoon on BVI Moskito, November 2021
The Queen holds a mango during her Silver Jubilee visit to the Virgin Islands, October 1977
He said: ‘The report makes a number of recommendations aimed at reforming and strengthening the systems of government in the Virgin Islands.
‘In my view, these can be achieved without the partial or full suspension of the constitution in which direct rule would apply.
‘The report’s recommended reforms, and also actions for the Governor to take up, are not mutually exclusive or contradictory to maintaining democratic governance in the Territory.
‘Constitutional powers already exist under the constitution that can be exercised if necessary.’
A bond hearing was set for Wednesday after the Zoom court appearance yesterday.
Premier Andrew Alturo Fahie was charged with drug trafficking and conspiracy to launder money after a £62million cocaine sting by police in the United States. Pictured: the drug route
Following Fahie’s arrest, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said minister for overseas territories Amanda Milling will travel to the territory to speak to Governor James Rankin and key stakeholders.
She said: ‘The arrest yesterday of the premier of the British Virgin Islands on charges related to drugs trafficking and money laundering is extremely concerning and underlines the need for urgent action.
‘The (independent inquiry into the island’s governance) report published today by the Governor shows clearly that substantial legislative and constitutional change is required to restore the standards of governance that the people of the British Virgin Islands are entitled to.
‘I have instructed the minister for overseas territories to travel to the territory immediately to speak to the Governor and key stakeholders. We will then announce a clear path forward.
‘The overseas territories are a core part of the UK family.
‘The UK Government is committed to the security and wellbeing of the people of the British Virgin Islands.’