Greek billionaire Alkiviades “Alki” David, whose family holds a majority share in the Coca-Cola Helenic bottling plants, arrived is St Kitts last week with business partner Chase Ergen to plan arrangements for the expansion of their cannabidiol (CBD) company, Swissx, into the region.
According to the Daily Mail, the pair arrived in a private plane carrying an estimated 5,000 cannabis plants worth more than £1m.
Actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers was also aboard the plane with his wife Mara Lane and his mother-in-law.
Mr David told the Daily Mail that both the mother-in-law and Ms Lane were “cavity searched” after landing in St Kitts, but the group were eventually allowed to leave.
In a statement, Swissx said it wanted to create “thousands of jobs” by making St Kitts and Nevis cannabis products “the most sought after in the world”.
On the trip, the billionaire business partners had planned to build working relationships with local farmers to grow hemp, which would later be purchased by Swissx.
The statement added: “SKN was the obvious choice for commencing our Caribbean endeavours.”
But after a two-day investigation, St Kitts police said it had arrested Mr David and charged him with possession with intent to supply, possession of controlled drugs and importation of a controlled drug.
Bail was originally posted at $30,000 (£23,000) and $50,000 (£39,000) with two sureties of surrendering his travel documents and to agree to report daily to a local police station.
This was later upped to $300,000 (£232,000) and $600,000 (£465,000), and requires Mr David’s appearance in court in September.
The Swissx statement maintained that the pair had done nothing wrong, saying they had met for “coordinating support effort” talks with St Kitts Prime Minister Timothy Harris, but that the talks had “broken down and led to the arrests of David and Ergen”.
Mr Harris, in his own statement on Thursday, refuted that he had been involved in talks, saying: “The government has not had any conversation with any foreigner about setting up businesses to trade cannabis.”
He added: “It would be irresponsible for us to do at this time since there is still a lot of work to be done.”
St Kitts is currently undergoing a process to formalise a bill that hopes to see the eventual decriminalisation of cannabis.
But Mr Harris warned that until the bill becomes law, “the extant laws will remain as they are”.
He added: “I wish to reaffirm today that non-nationals would not be permitted to secure advantages over nationals of our federation as we set about [building] a marijuana industry.”
The legal teams of Mr David and Mr Ergen plan to file a lawsuit against Mr Harris and the St Kitts government later this week, Swissx has said.