Former premier Andrew Fahie is currently incarcerated at Federal Detention Center, Miami (above) as he awaits his sentencing hearing, which has been pushed to Aug. 5. He plans to appeal his conviction and has retained a new lawyer who specialises in appellate cases. (File Photo: Jason Smith)

An attorney for ex-premier Andrew Fahie argued last week that he was accused of acting only as a “figurehead” in the cocaine-trafficking scheme that led to his conviction and should therefore receive the minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

Mr. Fahie, who was convicted of all four counts against him after a two-week trial in Miami in February, faces a maximum potential sentence of life imprisonment and a $10 million fine when he heads back to court on Aug. 5.

However, he plans to appeal his conviction, his lawyer said in a 13-page motion she filed June 7.

“For the purposes of these arguments, Mr. Fahie acknowledges the jury’s verdict and notes that he will appeal his conviction in this case and that nothing herein should be deemed an admission of guilt or waiver of any appellate issue,” defence attorney Theresa Van Vliet wrote in the motion, which also objected to certain aspects of a pre-sentence report filed by prosecutors but not made public.

In the motion, Ms. Van Vliet downplayed Mr. Fahie’s role in the conspiracy and described him as “a man of conscience who cares for others over himself” and who had devoted his life to public service.

She also sought to pin the greater share of the blame on his co-conspirators — former BVI Ports Authority Managing Director Oleanvine Maynard and her son Kadeem Maynard — who were accused of taking part in an additional “side deal” that didn’t involve Mr. Fahie.

“At best, the government’s evidence showed that Mr. Fahie was more of a figurehead than an active participant, and although he stood to earn a large amount of money, he did not stand to earn as much as the participants who would be more permanent and more involved in the ‘side deal,’” the lawyer wrote.

Guilty pleas

Unlike Mr. Fahie, the Maynards each pleaded guilty to participating in the drug-trafficking scheme. They and Mr. Fahie are now incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center, Miami, a towering facility in the city’s downtown that houses more than 900 inmates.

Mr. Maynard is currently serving a 57-month prison term, and he is set to be released on May 15, 2026, according to United States Bureau of Prisons records.

Ms. Maynard, who testified against Mr. Fahie at his trial, is set to be sentenced at 10 a.m. on June 20. Her sentencing has been delayed six times for reasons not disclosed in court records.

Mr. Fahie’s sentencing before Judge Kathleen Williams — which was most recently set for June 25 before it was bumped to 2 p.m. on Aug. 5 — has been postponed twice in recent weeks at the behest of Ms. Van Vliet, who cited scheduling conflicts.

The sting

The trio were arrested in 2022 after an elaborate sting operation concocted by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

As part of the sting, undercover operatives posed as members of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel asking Mr. Fahie and Ms. Maynard for “free passage” to move cocaine through Virgin Islands waters.

During Mr. Fahie’s trial, jurors heard clandestine recordings of a man known to the defendants as cartel member Roberto Quintero — in reality, a DEA confidential source — explaining that the cartel’s cocaine would be concealed as waterproof construction materials.

The drugs would stay in the VI for a 24-to-48-hour window, be transported to Puerto Rico, be prepared for sale, and be moved onward to the mainland US for distribution, Mr. Quintero said.

In exchange, Mr. Fahie expected to receive an initial $500,000 in cash and a cut of the proceeds from future drug sales, prosecutors said during his trial.

Defence arguments

However, Mr. Fahie’s attorney has stressed that no drugs or money changed hands, though sham currency was shown to the former premier on a plane parked at the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport shortly before his arrest on April 28, 2022. Repeating an argument she unsuccessfully made at the February trial, Ms. Van Vliet argued in the Friday motion that the most serious charge her client faced — conspiracy to import more than five kilograms of cocaine — shouldn’t have been applied in Mr. Fahie’s case.

That’s because according to the DEA’s own scenario, the purported cocaine to be trafficked through the VI wouldn’t have been detectable as drugs until it was further processed in Puerto Rico, and therefore no cocaine would have been imported into the US, the lawyer maintained.

Ms. Van Vliet also argued that the Maynards — who took the initial meetings with Mr. Quintero and facilitated his introduction to Mr. Fahie — had a greater degree of participation in the smuggling scheme.

In support of that argument, the lawyer contrasted Mr. Fahie’s participation to that of Mr. Maynard, who allegedly intended to take possession of cocaine and sell it.

Pre-sentence report

The Friday motion also asked for corrections to the pre-sentence report that the judge will use to help determine Mr. Fahie’s sentence. Ms. Van Vliet, for instance, asked for the report to state that her client had no knowledge of a proposed “side deal” that would see Mr. Maynard work with the cartel to smuggle batches of cocaine into the VI for sale.

The lawyer also wanted the report to be scrubbed of any mention — made in the 2022 complaint against Mr. Fahie and repeated in the pre-sentence report — that the conspiracy reportedly involved operatives from “Lebanese Hezbollah,” an apparent reference to a US-government-designated terrorist organisation.

“The crimes of which Mr. Fahie stands convicted did not involve the Lebanese individuals the confidential source identified as Hezbollah operatives,” the motion stated. “The government did not dispute that Mr. Fahie was not involved with the Lebanese individuals.”

Fahie’s character

Ms. Van Vliet also used the motion to describe Mr. Fahie as a man of character.

“Outside of his official political duties in the BVI, Mr. Fahie has volunteered his time to making education available to everyone, including the underprivileged, in the BVI,” she wrote. “He has also demonstrated his compassion by providing counseling services to persons who lost children at birth.”

Additionally, she wrote, he operated a “non-profit organisation” called Bembella, which “successfully relied on word of mouth” to carry out its mission. The motion did not explain that mission.

“Furthermore, in his own family, he and his wife have provided a college education for both of their two daughters as well as postgraduate studies, which one daughter has completed and the other intends to embark on after her undergraduate studies,” the attorney noted.

Appeals lawyer

As Ms. Van Vliet handles the sentencing arguments, Mr. Fahie has also retained another Florida-based lawyer who specialises in appeals. On March 29, Richard Della Fera, whose eponymous firm’s website lists him as an “appellate law specialist,” was added as an attorney of record on Mr. Fahie’s case file.

The website describes the attorney as having more than three decades of criminal appeals experience.

His successes include a 2003 case where he overturned his client’s conviction for selling candle wax passed off as crack cocaine to an undercover police officer.

In another case, the attorney successfully argued that a USVI government licensing inspector shouldn’t have been convicted of bribery. The public servant allegedly told a woman that she would not be deported if she provided sexual favours, but the appeals court found the case didn’t meet the definition of bribery because the defendant had no control over federal immigration laws.

Mr. Fahie’s court file does not yet show a formal notice of appeal.