$250M seized in cocaine; largest bust in BVI history

TORTOLA — A member of Royal Virgin Islands Police was among two people arrested Tuesday in the seizure of $250 million worth of cocaine, according to BVI officials.

Gov. Augustus Jaspert and Police Commissioner Michael Matthews, during a press briefing with head of the National Security Council, said that 20-year veteran police officer Darren Davis, 41, and his brother, Liston Davis, 40, were charged in the bust. The Davis brothers are both BVI natives, officials said.

The cocaine, discovered on Friday in the Balsam Ghut area, is the largest bust in the territory’s history, according to Jaspert.

“The quantity of cocaine seized is the largest in the British Virgin Islands history, 2,353 kilos, with an estimated street value of around $250 million,” he said. “To put that into context, the value of the seizure equates to around 75% of our entire national budget in the BVI.”

Jaspert praised investigators, noting police conducted “exceptional and high risk work” in making such a significant seizure. He added that a seizure of that size indicates the risks such scale could have in debilitating and deteriorating the territory, good governance and the safe communities.

He added that drug trafficking isn’t merely the work of a few criminals sneaking through the cracks. A seizure of this scale, when combined with previous seizures is “strong evidence and serious organized criminality” in the BVI.

Jaspert also decried the officer’s involvement.

“The involvement of a police officer, indicates there may be pockets of corruption facilitating this kind of illicit activity,” he said. “It’s important that we eliminate and prevent this corruption from growing.”

He again commended the police force for conducting what he described as “a dangerous and complex operation” that required significant courage and professionalism.

“The significance of this bust is beyond anything they’ve ever seen in their lifetime and made our streets and others around the world, a safer place,” Jaspert said. “It will show drug smugglers that the British Virgin Islands will not tolerate their illicit activity. We can and will stop drug trafficking.”

He also took the opportunity to point out that most officers abide by the law.

“I know that our police officers will be deeply troubled by the news of a fellow officer has been arrested in conjunction with this seizure. This is certainly difficult and disappointing news to process for all of us,” he said. “The vast majority of police officers, public officers, those who work for us and indeed the vast majority I know, of people in the British Virgin Islands, are honest and dedicated individuals, who serve the territory to the best of their ability, every single day. The fact alleged corruption has occurred, is a sobering sign that our institutions can be manipulated.”

Also Tuesday, Jaspert announced that a go-fast boat that was found with $99,000 on Sunday has since capsized. He said police rescued two individuals, who now in custody, from the boat after it was reported by a “known criminal.” An investigation is underway and Jaspert said it was too early to say whether the boat that capsized Sunday was connected to the 2,353 kilos of cocaine seized Friday.

The governor also commended the Customs and Immigration officers who he said do diligent work to secure the borders, as part of a joint task force with police.