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US eyes extradition of high-profile Jamaicans

Edmond Campbell and Glenroy Sinclair, Senior Staff Reporters

A SENIOR member of the Obama administration revealed yesterday that a "series" of extradition requests have been made by the United States government for Jamaicans to be sent abroad for trial, but US officials are tight-lipped as to whether local elected officials are on the list.

Dr Arturo A. Valenzuela, US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said Washington was anticipating the processing of the requests.

"There is a series of extraditions that the United States still has requested and we look forward to those being processed," he said yesterday morning at a press briefing at the US Embassy in St Andrew.

The Gleaner understands that the list includes law-enforcement officers, politicians and other high-profile individuals. According to sources, some of the extradition requests are related to the investigation of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, the alleged crime overlord who is in New York facing drug and gun charges.

When quizzed about the extradition requests, Valenzuela asked Isiah Parnell, the chargé d'affaires at the US Embassy, to respond.

Not a public spectacle

Parnell stonewalled reporters on whether the new requests involved elected Jamaican officials, stating that the US Embassy was "discreet and circumspect" in how it handled such diplomatic matters.

"... We have an extradition treaty that has worked well between the US government and the Government of Jamaica ... . It has not been our practice to talk about individual extradition requests. We don't expect that to change," he told journalists.

Parnell stressed that Washington would continue to work through the normal diplomatic channels to handle any extradition requests deemed difficult.

The chargé d'affaires pointed out that there was nosignificant change in the number of extradition requests made by the US, adding that the range was between 10 and 20 per annum.

"As issues come up ... we will process them through the DPP (director of public prosecutions) as we normally do, and the attorney general's office, and we just look forward to that process running smoothly," he said.

Dr Paul Gardner, president of the Jamaica Council of Churches - one of the major critics of the Jamaican Government's handling of the Coke saga - has cautioned that the Golding administration should return to the established extradition procedures, "assuming that we bungled the last one".

According to Gardner, the level of secrecy should be maintained in terms of information shared between the US and Jamaican governments.

"There is a point when it becomes public knowledge, and I would hope that this is adhered to in terms of those that are pending," he added.

The fresh extradition requests come on the heels of the June 24 transfer of Coke, the deposed Tivoli Gardens strongman, following a nine-month stalemate between Washington and Kingston over the request.

Under intense pressure to resign in May, Golding softened his earlier stance on the request for Coke and gave the green light for his extradition.

Last week, news surfaced that US prosecutors had filed a new sealed document with the courts.

Prosecutors gave no indication of what is contained in the document filed on June 20 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York where Dudus is to be tried.

Valenzuela met with Golding yesterday as part of a three-nation tour of the Caribbean. He visited The Bahamas and is to make his final stop in Trinidad and Tobago.

During their meeting, Golding and Valenzuela discussed how the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) could be more effective.

The CBSI, announced by US President Barack Obama during the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago early last year, focuses on three main objectives. The initiative is aimed at substantially reducing illicit drug trafficking, increasing public safety and security and promoting social justice.

Published: Wednesday | July 28, 2010 [The Jamaican Gleaner]

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