British Virgin Islands appoints new Prime Minister after Fahie arrest | Political news
Natalio Wheatley has been sworn in as leader of the British Overseas Territory as he faces scrutiny for corruption.
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) has sworn in Natalio Wheatley as its new prime minister after the dismissal of Andrew Fahie, who was arrested for drug trafficking in the United States last week.
Thursday’s swearing-in came after Governor John Rankin said he had revoked Fahie’s term following a vote of no confidence in the British Overseas Territory House of Assembly.
The BVI, one of the world’s leading offshore tax havens, is currently under scrutiny for corruption that could lead to the UK assuming direct governance from London.
Wheatley, the former deputy prime minister who will now also serve as finance minister, said his appointment was “another important and necessary step in renewing our beloved democracy and reforming our institutions”.
“I hope this day will be remembered as the day we started a new era of democratic governance,” he said.
Rankin, who is Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in the islands and her ultimate executive authority, pledged to “work in partnership” with Wheatley to improve the administration of the islands.
Need for “urgent action” on governance
A commission of inquiry last week said the territory’s elected government should be dissolved and its constitution suspended for two years due to systematic dishonesty, returning it to direct UK rule.
The commission’s report concluded that millions of dollars of public funds were being spent without proper processes. He added that there was evidence of widespread abuse in the appointments.
But Wheatley has said in recent days that he wants to avoid direct UK rule, calling it unacceptable and warning it would undermine the progress made by generations of people in the territory since 1950, when a body local legislation has been launched.
Demonstrations were also held on the islands against London regaining control.
The inquest report was not directly linked to Fahie’s arrest, but UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said his detention demonstrated the importance of the investigation and the need for ‘urgent action’ .
Fahie, 51, was arrested at a Miami airport with the territory’s Port Authority chief executive Oleanvine Maynard.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said Fahie, in taped meetings with a confidential Drug Enforcement Administration source, agreed to help smuggle cocaine through the territory in exchange for a portion of the profits. If convicted, he faces a minimum of nearly 20 years in prison.
Fahie’s lawyer has indicated he intends to plead not guilty to the charges when he appears in court later this month and has asked for his release on the grounds that he has diplomatic immunity. in the United States as the elected leader of the BVI.
The DOJ says such immunity does not exist because the overseas territory is not a sovereign nation.