Thursday, May 13, 2010

Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding admits lobby on behalf of drug accused Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke

Jamaica PM admits lobby on behalf of wanted man

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday May 12, 2010 – A controversy surrounding efforts by the United States to have a drug accused extradited, and the Jamaica government’s resistance to those moves, yesterday became even more contentious as Prime Minister Bruce Golding admitted that he gave the nod for a law firm to be hired to lobby the US government on the extradition issue.

His admission was met with strong criticism across the floor of Parliament, even as he insisted the company was hired and paid by his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and not the government.

Golding came clean on his involvement in the matter following weeks of allegations and claims that the government had engaged the services of US law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips to intervene as the US pushed its request for the extradition of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, a member of the JLP stronghold of West Kingston who is wanted on gun and drug charges in the US.

“I sanctioned the initiative, knowing that such interventions have in the past proven to be of considerable value in dealing with issues involving the governments of both countries. I made it clear, however, that this was an initiative to be undertaken by the Party, not by or on behalf of the government,” Golding said yesterday.

“A payment of US$49,892.62 was made to Manatt, Phelps & Phillips on September 18th 2009. These funds were sourced from financial contributors to the Party. Rumours and speculation carried in the media that these funds were provided by Christopher Coke are completely false as the Party is fully aware of the source of these funds,” he added.

Prime Minister Golding further insisted that there was “absolutely nothing illegally or surreptitious” about what had been done, arguing that the engagement of lobbyists to act on behalf of foreign governments, political parties or corporations is a well-known practice in the United States governed by law.

Golding has been strongly resisting the attempt to extradite Coke on the grounds that wire-tap evidence gathered by the US authorities in their case against him was illegally obtained.

He said that the Extradition Treaty between Jamaica and the US specifies the type of information that must be provided in support of a request for extradition and maintained that the information presented in the Coke matter is unacceptable because “it has been used in violation of Jamaican law and in contravention of the expressed order of a Judge of the Supreme Court”.

“For the (Justice) Minister to ignore this violation and issue the authorization to proceed would be to condone and legitimize this violation and would be a dereliction of duty,” he said, adding that although the Jamaica government wrote formally to the US authorities back in September 2009 requesting additional or separate information that would enable Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne to sign the authorization to proceed, the US has “steadfastly refused to do so”.

“I wish to make it clear that the government will, without hesitation, facilitate the extradition of any Jamaican citizen wanted to stand trial for extraditable offences once the obligations under the Treaty are met. Christopher Coke is wanted for an alleged crime in the US for which he ought to be tried and the government of Jamaica, consistent with its obligations under the Treaty, will do everything necessary to facilitate his extradition once it is done in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty and the laws of our country,” Golding told the Parliament.

“Some argue that this is a matter for the Courts and not the Minister to determine. They are wrong! As I have already pointed out, the Treaty makes it clear that information sufficient to allow the Minister to authorize extradition proceedings must be presented before the request is submitted to the Courts. What we have, therefore, is a dispute regarding the application of the Treaty. A treaty dispute cannot be resolved by the Courts of either party to the dispute. This is why we have used every conceivable means to resolve this dispute through dialogue with the US authorities.”

Prime Minister Golding said that since the controversy and the suggestion that the government's stand is motivated by partisan considerations, his administration retained the services of a senior attorney to seek a declaration from the Court as to the duties of Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne and the matters she must properly take into account in exercising her authority under the Extradition Treaty.

JLP parliamentarians yesterday blasted Golding for not acknowledging his involvement in hiring Manatt, Phelps & Phillips earlier.

But the Prime Minister insisted that he replied truthfully when asked whether the Government of Jamaica had engaged the law firm’s services.