MIAMI, Florida — Sometime after 7 p.m. on April 27, 2022, at a meeting at the Embassy Suites hotel in Miami, Jossue Dominguez allegedly handed a cell phone to then-Virgin Islands Premier Andrew Fahie.
Mr. Dominguez, an undercover detective posing as a Sinaloa Cartel member, then showed Mr. Fahie four photos, each depicting cardboard boxes bearing the logo of luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton, he testified on Wednesday during Mr. Fahie’s ongoing drug-trafficking trial in Miami.
The boxes, photos of which were shown to the jury Wednesday morning, appeared to contain neatly pressed stacks of hundred-dollar bills, wrapped in cellophane and bound with multi-coloured rubber bands.
These photos, Mr. Dominguez said, represented the $500,000 that Mr. Fahie was to receive as payment in exchange for letting cocaine shipments pass through the VI.
The detective’s account was part of several hours of testimony he provided on Tuesday and Wednesday as prosecutors introduced exhibits into evidence and played recordings for the jury.
Mr. Dominguez — the only witness to take the stand as of day-end Wednesday — served as the jurors’ guide to conversations he allegedly had with Mr. Fahie during a series of secretly recorded meetings.
Mr. Fahie denies the charges against him and maintains his innocence, and his lawyers have suggested that he believed he was being framed by the United Kingdom government.
Shortly after Mr. Fahie allegedly viewed the photos at the Miami hotel, “Roberto,” a confidential informant also working with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration in the sting operation, declared: “We don’t need to do nothing else. We just want free passage,” according to a secretly recorded tape of the meeting, which was played in court.
Mr. Dominguez testified that the confidential informant meant that the “cartel” wanted assurance from Mr. Fahie that its shipments could get through “with no interference from law enforcement.”
Shortly after, Mr. Fahie’s voice was heard on the tape saying, “That’s good. We’re clear with that.”
Mr. Dominguez testified that he understood Mr. Fahie to mean that the plan was “good to go.”
Loan, line of credit
Also during the Embassy Suites meeting, the parties discussed how Mr. Fahie could explain having come into the $500,000 in cash by using a scheme involving the house that he was building in West End, Tortola, according to Mr. Dominguez’s testimony.
Mr. Fahie was heard on the tape asking if a “cartel” construction company could invoice him for materials — in the sum of around $40,000 at first.
“Roberto” suggested that this arrangement was feasible.
“We have three construction companies,” the confidential source was recorded as saying. “We are associates with a lot of companies. But really, I’m going to be straight: Sometimes it’s just a front. But we have all kinds of materials.”
Mr. Fahie then suggested that the arrangement could be structured on paper as a loan, according to the recording.
“Great, so what they have to do now is a loan for me to send the $40,000 they say the invoice is from,” Mr. Fahie’s voice said on the tape.
Mr. Dominguez testified that such an arrangement would help provide a paper trail if Mr. Fahie were ever questioned.
“What the defendant is asking us to do here is pretty much to give him a loan for the building of the house,” the detective told the jury. “But he’s really going to send us $40,000. And there’ll be an invoice for it so it will be legitimate.”
Later during the Embassy Suites meeting, the parties discussed the possibility of Mr. Fahie opening a line of credit with cartel construction companies to provide further documentation to “make it look good,” as Mr. Fahie explained on the tape.
He added, “That’s good because the whole order for the windows, doors, tiles, fixtures, once they happen, will come out to $200,000 to $300,000.”
Ride to airport
After the April 27, 2022, evening meeting — part of which was attended by Mr. Fahie’s alleged co-conspirator Oleanvine Maynard and a woman identified in court only as “Roxane” — the parties agreed that Mr. Dominguez and “Roberto” would pick up Mr. Fahie the next morning.
The then-premier was staying at his daughter’s apartment in the Miami area, a drive of around a half an hour to the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport.
Parked at the airport was a jet that Mr. Dominguez and “Roberto” suggested would carry the $700,000 in cash back to the VI accompanied by “Roxane.”
On Wednesday afternoon, jurors heard Mr. Dominguez describe the ride to the airport on April 28, 2022.
The detective and “Roberto” picked up Mr. Fahie, who had allegedly accepted the “cartel’s” offer of a ride on a private plane to Philadelphia, and drove him to the airport accompanied by one of Mr. Fahie’s daughters, according to Mr. Dominguez.
During the ride, which was also secretly recorded and played for the jury, “Roberto” talked nearly incessantly.
He engaged Mr. Fahie in conversation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, shortages caused by the pandemic, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Twitter, the sci-fi movie Predator, Elon Musk, flying cars and China.
“Roberto” also told a story about his Dominican wife, offered his views on marijuana, and at one point explained that he had quit drinking alcohol because “it gave opportunity to the enemy.”
The conversation may have been just small talk, Mr. Dominguez testified, but it also had a hidden purpose.
“We have a surveillance team following us, and it’s to distract him from looking out on the road and possibly making the surveillance team. It was to keep him busy,” Mr. Dominguez said of Mr. Fahie.
Arriving at the airport
During the car ride, Mr. Fahie took a phone call, which didn’t strike Mr. Dominguez as “alarming,” he said.
“It seemed like it was basic conversation with a relative or a friend,” the detective told the jury.
The call ended, and Mr. Fahie was heard on the tape asking “Roberto” and Mr. Dominguez about the “catalogue.”
The detective testified that this query was a reference to a catalogue of construction materials that Mr. Fahie wanted to order and have “the cartel” supply for the house he was building.
On the recording, Mr. Fahie noted that some of the materials might be hard to get, but Mr. Dominguez and “Roberto” assured him that their supplier was very good.
The conversation then shifted to the used-car market. Mr. Fahie was heard on the tape complaining about supply-chain delays caused by the pandemic and extra fees.
“They nickel and dime you for everything. They turn you upside-down and shake your money out of you,” he was recorded as saying.
“Roberto” said that because of reporting by “the media,” it was hard to be sure about such matters.
Mr. Fahie replied, “There’s three sides to every story: Yours, mine and the truth.”
The conversation waned as the car arrived at the airport.
Mr. Dominguez told the jury that at that point, the law enforcement officers intended to try to show Mr. Fahie the $500,000 in fake cash.
“We were going to enter into the airport and then ask the defendant if he wanted to go with us to the plane to see the money, and we would walk him over the plane,” Mr. Dominguez said shortly before the court adjourned for the day.
It wasn’t discussed in court on Wednesday, but after viewing the cash and disembarking from the plane that day, Mr. Fahie was arrested and taken into DEA custody, according to the 2022 criminal complaint filed in the case.
The testimony of Mr. Dominguez was expected to conclude Thursday, prosecutors said. Then he was to be cross-examined by Mr. Fahie’s attorneys, who had yet to fully present their case or call any witnesses.
The next witness set to testify is slated to be Brian Witek, a DEA agent and the co-lead investigator in the case, prosecutors said.
Also expected to testify is Ms. Maynard, the former BVI Ports Authority managing director who was also arrested on April 28, 2022, and charged along with her son Kadeem and Mr. Fahie.
Both Maynards have since pleaded guilty in connection with the matter. Ms. Maynard has yet to be sentenced, while Mr. Maynard is serving a nearly five-year prison term for his involvement in the alleged conspiracy.
During the ongoing testimony this week, Mr. Fahie sat at the defence table paying close attention and occasionally glancing down at some notes.
When the jury took its mid-morning break Wednesday, Judge Williams took a moment to welcome some visitors to the courtroom: Several Peruvian law students who had won a mock trial competition were attending along with their advisor.
Mr. Fahie greeted the visitors warmly, sharing a laugh with them during the break.