SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Jamaica’s prime minister has acknowledged authorizing a lobbying firm to help the government contest a U.S. extradition request for a prominent Jamaican community leader accused of drug and arms trafficking.
A senior opposition leader urged Prime Minister Bruce Golding to resign Wednesday, May 12 after Golding notified parliament that he sanctioned the lobbying effort against the extradition of Christopher Coke.
A U.S. indictment accuses “Dudus” Coke of leading a gang with members in Jamaica and the United States that sold marijuana and crack cocaine in the New York area and elsewhere, and funneled profits back to Coke. His name has been included on a U.S. Justice Department list of the world's most dangerous drug kingpins.
In a written statement to parliament Tuesday, May 11,Golding said he acted in his capacity as leader of the governing Jamaica Labor Party and not as prime minister when he gave the green light to the lobbying effort by Los Angeles-based firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.
"I sanctioned the initiative, knowing that such interventions have in the past proven to be of considerable value in dealing with issues involving the governments of both countries," Golding said.
Coke, 41, allegedly controls a band of gunmen who operate and help maintain order inside the barricaded Tivoli Gardens neighborhood in west Kingston, a political stronghold of Golding's Labor Party.
Since the U.S. requested the extradition of the reputed gang leader in August, Golding has led opposition to his extradition, claiming that evidence against Coke was illegally obtained.
In his statement, Golding said that Manatt, Phelps & Phillips registered Jamaica as its client without the appropriate authorization from the government.
The law firm insisted Wednesday that it was employed by the government of Jamaica, through an intermediary, to assist with matters including existing treaty agreements between the U.S. and Jamaica. The lobbying assignment ended Feb. 8 and was first publicly disclosed in Jamaica the following month.
Coke's father was Lester Lloyd Coke, better known as Jim Brown, a leader of the Shower Posse gang during the 1980s cocaine wars, during which the FBI blamed the drug gang for 1,400 murders on the East Coast of the U.S.
U.S. prosecutors say Christopher Coke took over the organization following his father's death in 1992.
Photo: Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding