Court papers link Hezbollah to British Virgin Islands premier's drug trafficking arrest
The premier of the British Virgin Islands was arrested at a Miami airport on Thursday on charges of money laundering and conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, in deals which court papers allege was brokered with the help of Hezbollah operatives.
Hezbollah, however, has firmly denied that the group or its members had any involvement in the scheme detailed in a complaint and affidavit filed this week in Florida's southern district court.
According to the court documents, US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents picked up Andrew Fahie, leader of the Caribbean island and British overseas territory at the centre of the Panama Papers, who was allegedly about to embark on a trafficking scheme that would have made him $7.8m.
But Fahie, along with with Oleanvine Maynard, manager of the BVI ports authority, and her son Kadeem, had been unwittingly forging their plans with a DEA informant posing as a member of Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel.
The plans, according to the affidavit, started in October when the informant had several meetings with "a group of self-proclaimed Lebanese Hezbollah operatives," who said they had ties to south Florida and the Middle East.
As well as offering the informant the use of a storage port on the island of Tortola to transport cocaine destined for the US, one of the alleged operatives said he would introduce him to Fahie's head of security and try to set up a meeting.
Another said he "owned" Maynard, the port authority manager. Later on, the group said they had contacted Maynard and that she would meet with the informant, "but she wanted an up-front payment," according to the complaint.
'We prohibit any drug use, or trafficking, based on our moral, legal and religious beliefs'
- Mohammad Afif, Hezbollah spokesman
When the informant eventually met with Oleanvine Maynard and her son for the first time this March, they said they had already started "to put things in place and make connections" after the alleged Hezbollah members contacted them.
Asked about the complaint, Mohammad Afif, Hezbollah's head of media relations, told Middle East Eye that the group has "nothing to do whatsoever" with the alleged BVI trafficking.
"Our position in that regard is well-known, clear, and publicly announced. We prohibit any drug use, or trafficking, based on our moral, legal, and religious beliefs," Afif said in a statement.
"We consider bringing Hezbollah's name in such narrations and stories aims at distorting the group's name and reputation as a resistance movement against the Zionist occupation and aggressions."
Calculators, witches and prayer
Hezbollah is not referenced again in the 19-page complaint, which details weeks of alleged preparation between the BVI premier, the two Maynards, and the informant to get cocaine, stowed away in buckets of waterproofing paint, from the BVI to Miami and New York.
Fahie, who went by "Head Coach" in private messages about the scheme and is said to have pulled out a calculator at one point to figure out his exact cut, told the informant he "believed in witches and magic" and asked him to start a prayer at one of their meetings.
He pressed the informant at least twice, asking if he was an undercover agent. "It took me 20 years to get here. I don't want to leave in 20 minutes," Fahie said, according to the complaint.
He also explained that the British - presumably the government - had been trying to get him out of office for years.
"I have plenty of people, and I don't sell them out to the British with their plans, their plans are to catch all the people... but me, I see what they are doing and I protect the people," Fahie was recorded saying.
Apparently satisfied with the informant's drug-running cover, Fahie then asked for his help paying off a Senagelese man who had "fixed" some political issues for him in the past. He would need $83,000 in cash, the complaint said.
Fahie is expected to appear in a Miami court on Friday.