MIAMI, Florida — Former Virgin Islands premier Andrew Fahie was found guilty on Thursday afternoon of conspiring to smuggle thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States while laundering the money that he earned from the deal.
After a seven-day trial that featured lengthy testimony from alleged co-conspirator Oleanvine Maynard, a 12-member jury in Miami unanimously convicted Mr. Fahie of each of the four counts against him: conspiracy to import more than five kilograms of cocaine, conspiracy to engage in money laundering, attempted money laundering, and foreign travel in aid of racketeering.
Jurors deliberated for about four hours before arriving at the verdict.
Judge Kathleen Williams read the jury’s verdict at 5:41 p.m. Mr. Fahie appeared stone-faced as it was read. Supporters behind him pursed their lips.
Sentencing was scheduled for April 29, and Mr. Fahie, who was previously out on bail, was handcuffed and taken into custody.
The maximum sentence for the cocaine-conspiracy charge is life in prison and a $10 million fine, according to the 2022 indictment. The other three charges — conspiracy to engage in money laundering, attempted money laundering and foreign travel in aid of racketeering — carry maximum prison terms of 20, 20 and five years, respectively.
During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Mr. Fahie agreed to allow undercover operatives working for the US Drug Enforcement Administration to use VI waters to traffic thousands of kilograms of cocaine.
In exchange, they said, he expected to receive an initial $500,000 in cash and a cut of the proceeds from future drug sales.
Mr. Fahie and Ms. Maynard were told that the $500,000 — and an additional $200,000 for Ms. Maynard — would be flown on a private jet to Tortola, DEA operatives testified this week.
But after the pair viewed fake cash aboard a jet at the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport on April 28, 2022, DEA agents arrested them.
However, defence attorney Theresa Van Vliet questioned the prosecution’s narrative throughout the trial, arguing that Mr. Fahie is innocent and had acted out of a belief that he was being “framed” by the United Kingdom.
Mr. Fahie, she said, had an “earnestly held belief” that a man claiming to be a drug trafficker named Robert Quintero — who was actually a DEA confidential source — had been sent by the UK government in an attempt to remove him from office.
This belief, she suggested, explains Mr. Fahie’s actions. To support that argument, Mr. Van Vliet noted that he was heard on secret recordings questioning the DEA operatives at length about their operations: how the drug-trafficking would work; when the monies would arrive in the VI; how it would be concealed, and so on.
The defence attorney also highlighted comments reportedly made by Roxane Sylvester, the former deputy chair of the BVI Ports Authority, suggesting that Mr. Fahie in fact planned to take action against the men posing as drug traffickers.
Ms. Sylvester — who DEA operatives said was expecting to return to Tortola on the cash-laden plane with Mr. Quintero — reportedly told Ms. Maynard that Mr. Fahie had told her he planned to have the jet seized once it landed in the VI on April 28, 2022, according to the defence attorney. Ms. Sylvester has not been accused of wrongdoing.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Ms. Maynard — who pleaded guilty last June to taking part in the alleged conspiracy — testified at length.
She is to be sentenced by Judge Williams on Feb. 22, and she acknowledged earlier this week that she is seeking leniency for her “truthful testimony.”
Mr. Fahie has maintained his innocence and denied all the charges against him.
This story has been edited to more accurately reflect the amount of time the jurors deliberated.