The Commission of Enquiry into the handling of the extradition request of Christopher Coke, which is being held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, resumed yesterday (January 20) with the testimony of another senior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
Director of the Consular and Diaspora Affairs Division in the Ministry, Heman Lamont, told the Commission that he received an extradition request for Mr. Coke from the United States Embassy, at about 3:15 p.m. on August 25, 2009.
He testified that the request was delivered to his office by an official from the United States (US) Embassy in a sealed envelope by way of a diplomatic note.
He explained that his role was to examine the documents, sign them, date them and then forward them to the Ministry of Justice, with a request for them to be transmitted to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, which he did.
Mr. Lamont stated that, in this case, he personally typed the memo to the Justice Ministry as he suspected “in his own judgment” that this was a case that he needed to “keep very close to his chest”.
He also noted that in extradition cases, which are deemed urgent and sensitive, special provisions are made to send the documents by way of a uniformed member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. This procedure, he said, was also followed.
The Director of Consular and Diaspora Affairs testified that he had no further role in the extradition process. “There ended everything that we did in the Foreign Affairs Ministry as far as I’m concerned,” he stated.
During cross examination by Attorney Frank Phipps Q.C., who is representing the Jamaica Labour Party, Mr. Lamont was asked whether there was any instance, he could recall, where persons outside of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were in possession of a request for extradition before it got to his Ministry. “I have no knowledge of that,” Mr. Lamont answered.
Mr. Phipps further asked him about the matter of the note being deemed urgent and sensitive, requesting that Mr. Lamont show him where on the document it said that it was in fact urgent. After examining the document for some time, Mr. Lamont stated that “the note itself did not make that point”.
Mr. Phipps suggested Mr. Lamont himself, had deemed the matter urgent and sensitive, to which Mr. Lamont replied, “No I do not accept your suggestion. I was asked to expedite”.
Thursday’s sitting of the Enquiry also continued with the cross examination of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Ambassador Evadne Coye.
Attorney-at-law, Oliver Smith, who is representing Solicitor General, Douglas Leys, asked Mrs. Coye about time lines in relation to two meetings in which a Manatt, Phelps and Phillips representative was said to be in attendance.
Mr. Smith carefully went through the events on two dates in December 2009, when a bilateral meeting was held in Washington, D.C. involving Solicitor General, Douglas Leys, former Jamaican Ambassador to the U.S., Anthony Johnson, Deputy Solicitor General, Lackston Robinson and Mrs. Coye.
Mrs. Coye acknowledged that she had made errors in an email to her boss Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Dr. Kenneth Baugh, about the date of a dinner and then a meeting involving a representative from the American law firm.
She said she noted in the email to Dr. Baugh that the meeting and the dinner were on the same day, however this was an error on her part as the meeting was in fact on December 17, while the dinner was held on December 16, the day before.
Ambassador Coye is expected to be further cross examined at a later date.
The Commission of Enquiry was established by Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding last October to probe the events leading up to Mr. Coke’s extradition, including the hiring of the U.S. law firm, Manatt, Phelps and Phillips.
It is being chaired by Queen’s Counsel, Emil George, assisted by Retired Permanent Secretary, Anthony Irons, and Queen’s Counsel, Donald Scharschmidt. The Government has earmarked approximately $40 million to fund the enquiry. The Commission is expected to conclude its hearings on February 28, 2011.
The Enquiry has been adjourned until Monday, January 24 at 9:00 a.m.
CONTACT: ATHALIAH REYNOLDS