United States prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for Andrew Fahie, shown above while still premier. He awaits a sentencing hearing scheduled for Aug. 5. He has maintained his innocence and plans to appeal his conviction, having already retained a new lawyer who specialises in appellate cases. (File Photo: DANA KAMPA)

Last month, former premier Andrew Fahie asked a Miami judge to sentence him to the minimum 10 years in prison for conspiring to smuggle thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States. But US prosecutors are asking for a life sentence.

Assistant US Attorney Kevin Gerarde wrote in a Friday motion ahead of Mr. Fahie’s sentencing, which is scheduled for Aug. 5, that the “base offence level” for his crimes should be set at 38 under the US Federal Sentencing Guidelines — a level that itself could carry a sentence of 19 years or more.

But Mr. Gerarde also asked Judge Kathleen Williams to increase the base calculation by six levels: two because the crime involved an abuse of trust and four more because Mr. Fahie allegedly took a leadership role in a conspiracy involving at least five people.

If granted, those increases would set Mr. Fahie’s final “offence level” at the maximum of 43. That level carries a life sentence, according to the guidelines.

Defence argument

Mr. Fahie — who maintains his innocence and plans to appeal — faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life and a $10 million fine.

His attorney Theresa Van Vliet argued last month that the 10-year minimum was appropriate because Mr. Fahie was no more than a “figurehead” who played a “minor role” in the alleged conspiracy.

She also repeated a claim she had made during Mr. Fahie’s February trial: that under the scenario concocted by the US agents who ensnared Mr. Fahie in a sting operation, the purported cocaine to be trafficked through Virgin Islands waters wouldn’t have been detectable as drugs until it was further processed in Puerto Rico. Therefore, no cocaine would have been imported into the US at all, the lawyer maintained.

Prosecutors’ view

But Mr. Gerarde painted a very different picture in his Friday motion, describing Mr. Fahie as a leader in the criminal enterprise.

“The defendant’s degree of control and authority over others cannot be overstated,” the prosecutor wrote. “He was the premier and minister of finance of the BVI.”

Accordingly, Mr. Gerarde asked Ms. Williams to disregard Ms. Van Vliet’s argument that Mr. Fahie played a “minor role” in the conspiracy.

“The defendant exercised decision-making authority, directly participated in the scheme’s planning and logistics, recruited accomplices, claimed a larger share of the fruits of the crime, and exercised control over others,” he wrote.

The prosecutor also countered the defence’s argument that Mr. Fahie had never conspired to import cocaine into the US.

“Regardless of whether the drugs would test positive while they were in the BVI, the defendant knew that the plan was to import cocaine into the United States, and he knowingly participated in that plan,” the prosecutor stated.

Other participants

In making his case, Mr. Gerarde also argued that the conspiracy to smuggle cocaine included at least six people in addition to Mr. Fahie.

Two of them were Oleanvine Maynard and her son Kadeem Maynard, who are both serving prison time after pleading guilty to taking part in the crime.

Also involved, according to the prosecutor, were four other people who were not indicted in the US case and face no criminal charges there: former BVI Ports Authority deputy chairwoman Roxane Sylvester, who Mr. Fahie allegedly asked to fly on a private plane from Miami to the VI to accompany $500,000 in cash he expected to receive; then-Customs Commissioner Wade Smith, who Mr. Fahie allegedly attempted to recruit; a Senegalese friend Mr. Fahie allegedly consulted about the smuggling scheme; and another man Mr. Gerarde did not name.

The prosecutor wrote that the unnamed conspirator would have been Mr. Maynard’s “handler” at the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport.

“Kadeem Maynard had consulted this contact to see how he could arrange [for the plane carrying Mr. Fahie’s cash] to land,” the prosecutor wrote. “The contact gave Kadeem a list of information that [a US informant he believed to be a cartel member] would need to provide in order for his plane to be cleared to land.”

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)
Sting operation

Mr. Fahie was arrested in Miami in April 2022 after an elaborate sting operation carried out 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 the Maynards to facilitate “free passage” to move cocaine through VI waters. During

Mr. Fahie’s trial in February, 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.

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.

Ms. Maynard — who testified against Mr. Fahie at his trial — was sentenced last month to nine years and three months in prison, and her son was sentenced last November to nearly five years.

Ms. Van Vliet, Mr. Smith and Ms. Sylvester did not respond to requests for comment.