Tuesday, March 2, 2010

US hints at diplomatic war if Dudus Coke, others not extradited now

The United States Government has flayed the Bruce Golding administration over Jamaica's handling of the extradition request for west Kingston strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

In an unusually caustic report on Jamaica in its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report , the Barack Obama administration made it clear it was not satisfied with Kingston's handling of the extradition request and charged that the Golding government was not holding to the rules.

"While cooperation between (the) Government of Jamaica (GOJ) and United States Government law-enforcement agencies remained strong, delays in proceeding with the significant extradition request for a major alleged narcotics and firearms trafficker who is reported to have ties to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), and subsequent delays in other extradition requests, have called into question Kingston's commitment to law-enforcement cooperation with the US," the report claimed.

Last night, Minister of Information Daryl Vaz was unwilling to speak on the US report, pointing The Gleaner instead to National Security Minister Dwight Nelson or Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne. Neither could be reached for comment.

According to Washington, in the past, extradition requests from its law-enforcement agencies were routinely and timely processed by Jamaican political and judicial authorities.

But that contradicts Golding, who told Parliament late last year that the extradition request was being held up because the Jamaican Government had unanswered questions.

"There are legal issues that need to be addressed. We have informed communications through the appropriate channels with the United States Government," Golding told Parliament.

Nothing strange or different

However, that has failed to satisfy the US which continues to argue that there is nothing strange or different in its request for the extradition of Dudus to answer drug and gun charges.

"The GOJ's unusual handling of the August request forthe extradition of a high-profile Jamaican crime lord with reported ties to the ruling JLP which currently holds a majority in Parliament, on alleged drug and firearms trafficking charges marked a dramatic change in GOJ's previous cooperation on extradition, including a temporary suspension in the processing of all other pending requests and raises serious questions about the GOJ's commitment to combating transnational crime.

"The high-profile suspect resides in and essentially controls the Kingston neighbourhood known as Tivoli Gardens, a key constituency for the JLP," the report said.

It added: "Jamaica's processing of the extradition request has been subjected to unprecedented delays, unexplained disclosure of law-enforcement information to the press, and unfounded allegations questioning US compliance with the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and Jamaican law."

With its anger thinly disguised, Washington charged that high-profile organised criminal gangs continued to successfully operate in Jamaica with the Government unable to exclusively focus on high-powered leaders of criminal gangs.

Received state contracts

"This is due to the fact that these leaders are afforded community and, in some cases, police and political protection. Additionally, their activity is often linked with legitimate business holdings."

Dudus is a director in Incomparable Enterprises Ltd, which has received millions of dollars in state contracts, and Presidential Click, which promotes several major dances and stage shows, including the weekly Passa Passa street dance in west Kingston and the annual Champions In Action stage show.

Washington argued that while: "As a matter of policy, (the) GOJ does not facilitate or encourage illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions, (the) pervasive public corruption continues to undermine efforts against drug-related ? crimes, and plays a major role in the safe passage of drugs and drug proceeds through Jamaica."

In a parting shot, the US Government hinted that its relationship with the Jamaican Government could deteriorate if Dudus and others are not extradited quickly.

"The GOJ is encouraged to demonstrate its political will to address corruption by successfully investigating, prosecuting, and convicting corrupt officials at all levels of government service and by the timely extradition of fugitives in accordance with the provisions of the bilateral extradition treaty without regard to political influence or party affiliation."

Kingston and Washington have been at odds since last year when an extradition request was submitted for Coke.

The request for the extradition of Coke - who is wanted in the United States on drug and weapons trafficking charges - is still with Attorney General and Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne, who has to sign the document before it becomes a legal matter.

In January, the Government rejected an extradition request for businessman Presley Bingham on the basis that it was related to charges he had been to the courts about before.

Fifteen people were extradited last year and, currently, there are two cases that have been before the courts over the past two years. Between 1994 and 2002, a total of 38 people were extradited from Jamaica to the US.

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