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British Virgin Islands prime minister arrested on drug trafficking charges

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By AP  with Euronews
In this Thursday, 10 August 2017 file photo, police officers walk among packages of seized cocaine at the Pacific port of Buenaventura, Colombia
In this Thursday, 10 August 2017 file photo, police officers walk among packages of seized cocaine at the Pacific port of Buenaventura, Colombia   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Fernando Vergara

The prime minister of the British Virgin Islands and the director of the Caribbean territory's ports were arrested Thursday on drug smuggling charges in South Florida, federal authorities said.

PM Andrew Alturo Fahie and Managing Director Oleanvine Maynard were taken into custody by US Drug Enforcement Administration agents at Miami-Opa-Locka Executive Airport and charged with conspiracy to import cocaine and conspiracy to launder money, according to a criminal complaint.

According to the records, Maynard's son, Kadeem Maynard, faces the same changes in the alleged scheme.

"Anyone involved with bringing dangerous drugs into the United States will be held accountable, no matter their position," DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement. 

"Today is yet another example of DEA's resolve to hold corrupt government members responsible for using their positions of power to provide a haven for drug traffickers and money launderers in exchange for their own financial and political gain," Milgram added.

Undercover DEA agents and Hezbollah operatives involved

Fahie and Oleanvine Maynard had been at the airport to meet Mexican drug traffickers, who in reality were undercover DEA agents, to see a shipment of $700,000 in cash that BVI officials expected to receive for helping smuggle cocaine from Colombia to Miami and New York, the complaint said.

A DEA confidential source had previously met with Maynard and her son after being introduced by a group of self-proclaimed Lebanese Hezbollah operatives, according to the complaint. 

After Fahie became involved, the BVI officials agreed to let the smugglers bring the cocaine through the port at Tortola before continuing to the US.

Governor Of The British Virgin Islands John Rankin released a statement clarifying that Thursday's arrests in Florida were not connected to a Commission of Inquiry issued last year in the territory.

That investigation was meant to focus on governance and corruption, not a criminal investigation into the illegal drug trade, Rankin said in a statement posted online.

It is unknown whether the commission had found any suspected wrongdoing by Fahie or Maynard, but Rankin said he expects to have the results published urgently to avoid unnecessary speculation.

With a population of about 35,000 people, the British Virgin Islands is a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean Sea, located east of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. 

The governor is appointed by the Queen, the territory's ultimate executive authority, and acts on her behalf. The prime minister is the head of the government and is elected in a general election along with the other members of the ruling government.