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Dudus was talking to US before Tivoli raid

Former don’s lawyers were trying to arrange surrender

BY PAUL HENRY Co-ordinator — Crime/Court Desk henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 08, 2013    

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ATTORNEYS for former Tivoli Gardens don Christopher 'Dudus' Coke had been negotiating his surrender to the US Embassy in Kingston before the deadly 2010 Tivoli Gardens operation to flush him out, a highly placed source confirmed to the Jamaica Observer last night.

"The negotiation was taking place some three months before the incursion," said the source, who requested anonymity.

The source confirmed information in an unclassified US Department of State e-mail about the issue circulated by US journalist Mattathias Schwartz yesterday.

The e-mail communication was between a Cameron Holland and Isiah Parnell, the then chargé d'affairs at the US Embassy in Kingston, on Wednesday, May 26, 2010. The e-mail, sent at 7:00 pm with the subject line "Christopher 'Dudus' Coke", was also copied to other persons.

The communication came two days after Coke fled Tivoli Gardens after police and soldiers entered the community on May 24 to arrest him but faced fierce resistance from gunmen determined to prevent his arrest. The security forces eventually took control of the community and returned the capital city to normalcy on May 26, but the hunt for Coke was on in earnest.

"As you are probably aware, today Coke's counsel spoke with the DOJ [Department of Justice] prosecutor on the case and proposed Coke's surrender directly to US authorities," said Holland's e-mail to Parnell. "This would mean that Jamaica would not/not arrest Coke, and no extradition proceedings would commence. Instead, his surrender would be entirely outside the framework of the treaty."

Parnell responded 14 minutes later to the e-mail: "Cameron, thanks for your continuing help on this difficult matter. I'll touch base with the attorney later tonight to see how his talks with his client are progressing."

What appeared to be significant portions of both e-mails were blocked out.

Last night, members of Coke's legal team were unavailable for comment. But our source revealed knowledge of talks between them and the US authorities before the Tivoli operation.

At the time he was on the run, Coke, a strong supporter of the then ruling Jamaica Labour Party, had been wanted in the US on drug and gunrunning charges.

During that time, it was rumoured that Coke wanted to surrender to the US authorities, instead of local police, for fear of being killed in jail like his father Lester Lloyd Coke (also known as Jim Brown) in the early 1990s while awaiting extradition to the US.

Coke was held in late June 2010 on the Mandela Highway in St Catherine in a car being driven by Rev Al Miller. Miller had said that he was taking Coke to the US Embassy in Liguanea where he was to surrender himself.

Miller has since been charged with harbouring a fugitive. Last month, the clergyman appeared in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court where his attorney made an application for disclosure of certain records relating to meetings and conversations with Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, and his deputies, regarding the matter.

His legal team also wants the release of the 119 recording relating to Coke's capture. Resident Magistrate Lorna Shelly-Williams is to make a ruling on the application later this month.

Coke, who waived his right to an extradition hearing and was flown to the US on June 24, 2010, is serving a 23-year sentence in a federal prison after pleading guilty to racketeering.

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