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Buju denies being broke and needing drug deal

By PAUL HENRY Crime/court coordinator henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, February 17, 2011 | 12:32 PM    

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TAMPA, USA — THE prosecutor today painted a picture of a broke Buju Banton, saying that was his motivation for wanting to enter into a drug dealing venture with government informant Alexander Johnson.

Prosecutor James Preston quoted from the recorded conversation of Banton telling Johnson that he was broke and that his friend Ian Thomas had helped him out financially.

Preston said that Banton's shows were being cancelled and that he needed the cash.

But Banton said that he was not broke and that even though his concerts were cancelled, the promoters had to honour the contracts. He said he was not in the red and that he had made US$400,000 from his tour.

Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, is being tried for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine; attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offence; and using the wires to facilitate a drug trafficking offence.

If convicted, Banton faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Banton had originally been tried on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, and aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm during a drug-trafficking offence. His trial resulted in a hung jury last September.

A new indictment was secured last November by Preston in an effort to secure a conviction against the Jamaican artiste, whose legal team is claiming that he had been entrapped by the US Government.

The artiste was arrested in December 2009 as part of a sting operation.

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