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US prosecutors coming to help Jamaica fight organised crime

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor — publications davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, March 11, 2012    

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THE United States is to send prosecutors to assist Jamaican authorities in a deepening of co-operation between both countries in their efforts against organised crime.

Julissa Reynoso, the US State Department's deputy assistant secretary, western hemisphere affairs, made the disclosure during an interview last Wednesday in Kingston.

Reynoso, who led a seven-member delegation from the departments of State, Justice, Treasury, and from USAID in discussions with Jamaican Government officials, said the US was committed to assisting Jamaica on issues of complex crime.

"The objective is to send prosecutors to help the relevant ministries to build capacity... and to help those ministries prosecute and bring to final justice persons who commit crimes," she said.

The assistance, Reynoso said, falls within the scope of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative — a partnership between the US and Caribbean countries to combat the drug trade and other transnational crimes that pose a threat to regional security.

The partnership "fulfils the commitment President Barack Obama made at the Fifth Summit of the Americas in April 2009 to deepen regional security co-operation and complements the other citizens security initiatives in the hemisphere", the State Department points out on its website.

The US says it has provided a combined US$139 million in funding for the first two years of the initiative, giving assistance in:

* maritime and aerial security co-operation;

* law enforcement capacity building;

* border/port security and firearms interdiction;

* justice sector reform; and

* crime prevention and at-risk youth programmes.

The Reynoso-led delegation's visit had its genesis in a discussion between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller who had expressed a desire to hold talks on areas in which support from Washington was desired.

The US delegation met with officials from the ministries of National Security, Finance, Education, and Industry, Investment, and Commerce.

Reynoso said that follow-up action on the discussions will happen over the next few months. It was too early for her to say how many persons would be sent to Jamaica. However, they will give support in the areas of organised crime and assets forfeiture.

"It's just a matter of making sure that we're being responsive to the needs of Jamaica," she said. "Obviously, in a world where there are limited resources we want to make sure that we are targeting our assistance and our support in the most immediate and most impactful ways as identified by the Government."

Asked whether it could be interpreted from her comments that the US was enjoying a better relationship with the present Jamaican Government as opposed to the previous administration — which resisted for nine months Washington's extradition request for Christopher 'Dudus' Coke — Reynoso said no.

"We have had a very good relationship with Jamaican authorities, at least as I remember it, we had a very fruitful and constructive relationship with Prime Minister Golding's Government," she said.

On her previous visit to Jamaica in January 2010, Reynoso was firm in her declaration that the US would not back down from its extradition request for the former Tivoli Gardens strongman.

"As it is now, we have no intention of removing the request," Reynoso told journalists then, but made clear that the Jamaican Government's reluctance in signing the order was not linked to a delay in appointing an ambassador to the island.

"We consider this individual to be a person of very high interest," Reynoso had also noted, adding that the US was actively engaged with the Government of Jamaica to make the extradition happen as soon as possible.

"We believe we have sound grounds," Reynoso had declared. "We do our due diligence quite well before we take any steps of that kind."

Coke, who was wanted for drug and arms trafficking, has since been extradited and is now awaiting sentencing in a New York Court after pleading guilty to racketeering.

Last Wednesday, Reynoso, who is also an attorney, said the US Government will continue to support the Jamaican authorities in pursing those who commit crimes.

"We know there are organised elements here. There are many crimes and the Government has indicated to us that it needs support in ensuring that those individuals are brought to justice... and that's one of the reasons we're here: to provide extra support," she said.

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