Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Jeremy Taylor today (February 1), outlined in detail the sequence of events leading to the extradition of Christopher Coke to the United States in June last year.
Mr. Taylor, who heads the Extradition Unit in the Office of the DPP, was giving testimony at the Commission of Enquiry into the handling of the Christopher Coke extradition request, at the Jamaica Conference Centre, in downtown Kingston.
He informed that he received notification for the extradition of Mr. Coke in August of 2009 from an official of the United States (US) Embassy.
Mr. Taylor said after receiving the information, he contacted officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to confirm whether a formal request for arrest had been made.
The Deputy DPP said following the conversation with the American official, he informed the Director of Public Prosecutions, Miss Paula Llewellyn of the request made by the United States.
“I contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to confirm whether or not the request had been made,” Mr. Taylor said.
He added that after a conversation with Director of the Consular and Diaspora Affairs Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Mr. Herman Lamont, he received a document by bearer from the US Embassy, which contained a photocopy of a set of authenticated documents outlining a request for Mr. Coke’s arrest.
“I examined the photocopy and I prepared an authority to proceed on a warrant of arrest. As time and speed being of the essence in relation to this particular request, which had been communicated to us as being very important and urgent by the requesting State, we prepared these documents in advance,” Mr. Taylor said.
He further told the Commission that during this time, Mr. Lamont “called seeking our assistance to get the documents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Ministry of Justice.” Mr. Taylor explained that subsequently, arrangements were made with a Sergeant from the Jamaica Fugitive Apprehension Team to transport the documents to the Ministry of Justice.
Mr. Taylor also informed that he was called by telephone by the Solicitor General, Mr. Douglas Leys who stated that Minister of Justice and Attorney General; Senator Dorothy Lightbourne had concerns about the extradition request for Christopher Coke.
The Deputy DPP said Mr. Leys told him that the Justice Minister had a problem with certain legal issues that were raised by the request for Coke.
“The issues which the learned Solicitor General presented to me, were issues concerning conspiracy, a fair trial, issues concerning confidential witnesses and issues concerning scientific analysis of the narcotics substance alleged in the request,” Mr. Taylor said.
He also testified that within three hours of being notified that the extradition request had been received, he was called by a reporter asking about the request. He said that he neither confirmed nor denied the information to the reporter.
The Deputy DPP then said following a meeting at his office, he left for the Ministry of Justice after being informed that the request from the authorities was forwarded. Mr. Taylor said he carried with him the relevant documents that were necessary for the Minister's signature, including the warrant to proceed with Mr. Coke’s arrest.
He informed the Commission that he was unsuccessful in his attempts to speak with the Justice Minister and was later advised by a Ministry official that the documents would not be signed.
Under cross examination by Mr. Hugh Small, Q. C., Mr. Taylor also revealed that the Office of DDP receives about 20 to 30 requests for extradition of Jamaicans each year and noted that since the extradition of Christopher Coke, “matters have considerably slowed.”
Mr. Taylor said that Mr. Coke waived his right for an extradition trial in Jamaica at a court hearing at Up Park Camp (after being caught in a security dragnet on June 22), and was extradited to the United States (where he is facing allegations of drug trafficking and gun running).
The enquiry continues tomorrow (February 2), with Mr. Taylor continuing his testimony.
CONTACT: LATONYA LINTON