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UK-Appointed BVI Governor Seeks Expanded Authority, Inciting Local Political Turmoil

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BVI Governor John Rankin

In the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Governor John Rankin’s call for increased authority from the United Kingdom due to delays in implementing reforms recommended by the Commission of Inquiry has ignited strong opposition among local leaders. This move led BVI Premier Natalio Wheatley to urgently convene a meeting with Caribbean Overseas Territories leaders.

Governor Rankin, nearing the end of his tenure, emphasized the need for more than just time extensions, which the UK had approved twice in the previous year, to meet the reform deadlines. With consistent failures to meet these extended deadlines, Rankin expressed doubts about achieving the current May deadline.

Rankin acknowledged that while his previous review was somewhat favorable, recent progress has been minimal. Since September, only one reform has been actualized – receiving the necessary constitutional review report. However, this task was executed by an independent body, not by the government.

Key reforms still pending include updates to the Register of Interests Act, establishment of a new education grants policy, guidelines for statutory boards operation, the creation of a new Public Service Management Act, amendments affecting ministers’ discretionary powers, revisions to the Integrity in Public Life Act, and the activation of a Whistleblower Act.

Governor Rankin, while stressing the urgency for a new November 2024 deadline, clarified that he does not intend to invoke the Order in Council for direct UK rule over the territory. Instead, he seeks additional measures to expedite the implementation of the COI recommendations.

Rankin’s request for augmented powers on January 5, as part of his Fifth Quarterly Review, met with unified resistance from BVI politicians. Myron Walwyn, an at-large parliament member, contested the justification for such powers, arguing that the governor’s current authority suffices for the needed actions.

Premier Wheatley expressed deep concern and offense over Rankin’s proposal, especially since it contradicts the recent joint declaration highlighting the UK-BVI partnership. Wheatley criticized the lack of consultation with the BVI government, comparing it to past colonial governance.

The requested emergency meeting by the Caribbean Overseas Territories Caucus is set for Thursday, January 11. Governor Rankin’s resignation is expected on January 20, with Daniel Puce scheduled to take office as the new BVI governor on January 29.

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Charges Filed in Assassination of Haiti’s Former President, Including Widow and High Officials

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The investigation into the tragic assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise in 2021 has led to the indictment of nearly 50 individuals, encompassing a wide range of figures from former First Lady Martine Moise to high-ranking officials such as former Prime Minister Claude Joseph. This development follows the acceptance of a criminal complaint by Judge Walther Wesser Voltaire, spearheaded by public prosecutor Edler Guillaume. The allegations suggest Martine Moise played a role in the conspiracy that resulted in her husband’s death and her own serious injuries, despite not being directly involved in orchestrating the fatal attack on July 7.

Testimonies have hinted at Martine Moise’s political aspirations, including her desire to follow in her husband’s presidential footsteps. The indictment also names Léon Charles, the former police chief, and Dimitri Hérard, the ex-commander of the Security Unit General of the National Palace. Additionally, Félix Badio, known for his close ties to Prime Minister Ariel Henry, faces charges.

The probe into President Moise’s murder has faced significant scrutiny, criticized for being swayed by political motives. Critics argue that Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who communicated with Badio around the time of the assassination, is leveraging the justice system against political adversaries. With Haiti’s legislative branch inoperative, Henry essentially oversees the government, amid escalating violence and the increasing dominance of armed gangs, further destabilizing the nation.

The path to trial for those indicted by Judge Voltaire remains uncertain in Haiti. However, in the United States, legal proceedings have seen six out of eleven individuals plead guilty to planning the president’s murder, involving the recruitment of Colombian mercenaries for the task. The international dimension of this case underscores the complex web of intrigue and the challenges facing Haiti’s pursuit of justice and governance stability.

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Legal Quandary Emerges After Jurors Question Conviction of Ex-BVI Premier Andrew Fahie

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Following the conviction of Andrew Fahie, the former Premier of the British Virgin Islands, on drug-trafficking conspiracy charges, an extraordinary legal challenge has emerged. This comes after two jurors questioned their decision to find Fahie guilty, throwing the case into a rare legal predicament.

Fahie was convicted in a Miami federal court for conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, alongside three charges related to money laundering and racketeering. The verdict came after a two-week trial, concluding with just four hours of deliberation last Thursday.

However, the case took an unexpected twist when, minutes after reaching a unanimous decision, two of the 12 jurors communicated to U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams their doubts about the conviction. This occurred shortly after the jurors were polled and discharged by Judge Williams, effectively finalizing Fahie’s conviction.

The revelation has created an unprecedented situation, with the legal teams and Judge Williams considering the feasibility and legality of re-polling the jurors. Such a step is highly unusual, as South Florida’s legal precedent, along with broader practices, typically does not permit this action without indications of external influence or bias, neither of which has been presented in Fahie’s trial.

During a hearing that followed the verdict, federal prosecutors argued for maintaining the original verdict, citing the jurors’ official discharge. On the other hand, Fahie’s defense, spearheaded by attorney Theresa Van Vliet, has advocated for the re-polling of the jurors in question, pointing out the severe consequences of Fahie’s main conviction, which mandates a sentence ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment.

Adding another layer to the case’s complexity, Van Vliet disclosed that a juror had left a voicemail at her law firm, though the details of the message remain confidential. Judge Williams has suggested a private review of the voicemail by both parties, with a subsequent meeting to discuss potential motions that could address this legal anomaly.

The legal community is keenly observing as both sides prepare motions by the upcoming Thursday, exploring the limited options available for resolution. The potential outcomes include upholding the verdict or declaring a mistrial, the latter of which would require a new trial with a different jury.

Fahie’s arrest in April 2022, during a DEA sting operation in Miami, has led to his removal from office. He was implicated, alongside BVI’s port director Oleanvine Pickering Maynard, in a scheme to facilitate cocaine shipments through BVI ports, in coordination with an informant posing as a Sinaloa cartel member. Fahie, who had led the BVI since February 2019, now faces a legal battle that has captured widespread attention for its unique challenges and implications.

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UK Official Expresses Commitment to BVI’s Prosperity Amid Calls for Accelerated Reforms

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In a decisive move to encourage governance reforms within the British Virgin Islands (BVI), David Rutley, the UK’s Minister for the Americas, the Caribbean, and UK Overseas Territories, has underscored the British government’s readiness to intervene should the pace of reforms remain unsatisfactory.

During his recent visit to the territory, Rutley’s remarks were highlighted in a statement from the BVI Governor’s Office, emphasizing the UK’s dedication to fostering the security, prosperity, and wellbeing of the BVI populace. “The UK Government is steadfast in its desire for a prosperous, well-governed BVI and will continue to support the Governor and the BVI community in achieving this objective,” Rutley articulated.

The Minister pointed out the slow progress of reforms stemming from the Commission of Inquiry, indicating the UK’s willingness to provide further technical support if necessary. Yet, he firmly stated that the UK would not shy away from taking additional measures to ensure the timely implementation of crucial reforms.

These comments arrive amid debates triggered by a proposal from John Rankin, the former governor, advocating for enhanced powers for the BVI Governor’s Office to independently advance reforms—a suggestion that met with strong opposition from local and regional leaders. The reiteration of such views by a UK minister signals a growing impatience with the pace of the reform process, despite assurances from Premier Natalio Wheatley and other officials regarding their progress.

As of early 2024, the reform efforts in the BVI were reported to be halfway to completion, a modest increase from the previous year’s progress report. Former Governor Rankin had previously highlighted the inadequacy of time extensions alone to expedite these reforms, pointing out the missed deadlines despite the extensions granted.

The recent months have seen minimal advancement, with the former governor noting the completion of only one significant task—the receipt of a constitutional review report by an independent third party—since the previous autumn.

Daniel Pruce, the newly appointed governor, reflected on the significance of Rutley’s visit, viewing it as a manifestation of the UK’s vested interest and commitment to the BVI’s success.

The critique from some quarters suggests that the current stance of the UK may be affecting the dynamics of the relationship between the territory and its colonial power, potentially hindering the BVI’s journey towards independence.

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