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Jamaican prime minister testifies at extradition enquiry

Saturday, 19 March 2011 12:00 Written by  font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size

by Caribbean News Now Staff

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding testified on Friday that alleged drug kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke exerted considerable influence in Tivoli Gardens, Kingston, particularly among the young people.

"He was a benefactor... he was typical of what is called dons, wielding a considerable amount of influence and being held in significant esteem," said Golding in response to questions from his attorney, Hugh Small.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding
The prime minister was giving evidence at the Commission of Enquiry looking into the circumstances surrounding Coke’s extradition to the US that he met Coke in early 2005, shortly before he (Golding) became the Member of Parliament for West Kingston.

He said after he was elected a Member of Parliament he met him occasionally in Tivoli Gardens.

This is a diversion from the claims of other senior cabinet members and stalwarts in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) who gave evidence at the enquiry.

Justice minister Dorothy Lightbourne, national security minister Dwight Nelson and information minister Daryl Vaz have denied knowing Coke, saying most of their knowledge of the man emanated from media reports.

The Jamaica Gleaner reported that Golding told the Commission that, on August 24, he received a call from Nelson, informing him that he had the Chief of Defence Staff and Commissioner of Police in his presence.

"I told them that I was at Vale Royal and suggested that they could meet me there,” Golding said.

Small asked, "Is it unusual for you to have meetings with them (as minister with responsibility for the defence portfolio)?”

Golding responded, "No, we had regular meetings."

The prime minister said he was told by former Police Commissioner Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin that the extradition request would arrive the following day by a special agent.

Golding said he raised questions about the police's preparedness to deal with it.

The prime minister told the Commission that he subsequently alerted the minister of justice and attorney general Dorothy Lightbourne about the impending extradition request, as she would been the first port of call.

Golding said Lightbourne informed him the following day that she had received some documents relating to the extradition request.

“She said she had spoken to someone at the DPP office and expressed some surprise about the involvement of an officer of the JDF," said Golding.

Golding told the enquiry that he was livid when he found out that attorney Harold Brady had retained the United States law firm of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips on behalf of the government of Jamaica.

Golding said he gave Brady instructions to hire the firm on behalf of the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP).

He said Brady and junior minister of foreign affairs Ronald Robinson had approached him about seeking assistance regarding the extradition request for Coke. Golding admitted that he agreed to seek the law firm's assistance as he believed talks with the United States embassy in Kingston would be fruitless, as no ambassador was in place.

The prime minister said he was anxious to resolve the issue because of Coke's affiliation to the JLP.

Golding said that the attitude of the US government was to "hurry up and sign."

The enquiry will continue on Monday, when it is expected that the attorney general's secretary, Verna McGaw, will be called to testify concerning an email that was purportedly sent by Lightbourne to solicitor general Douglas Leys and copied to Brady.

The attorney general said that she never sent the email.
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