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US denied - Government says no to extradition request for St James businessman

Published:Friday | January 22, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Glenroy Sinclair and Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writers

After being bombarded with criticisms about its tardiness in signing an extradition warrant for Tivoli Gardens' strongman, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, the Government is again embroiled in a major extradition controversy with the United States government.

There are reports that the Government has reversed its acceptance of a request from the US government to extradite a prominent St James businessman.According to information reaching The Gleaner, the news that Presley Bingham will not be extradited has left some law-enforcement officers stunned. This was communicated to members of the Fugitive Apprehension Team Wednesday afternoon, while US marshals were in the island waiting to escort Bingham to the United States where he is wanted on drug-related charges.

Person of high interest

Coke and Bingham are on a shortlist of Jamaicans the US government is eagerly waiting to be extradited. Though not much has been said recently about the Government's position and the request for Coke's extradition, deputy assistant secretary for Central America and the Caribbean, Julissa Reynoso, who visited the island a week ago, stated publicly that Coke was a person of very high interest.

Contacted yesterday, a highly ranked government official who spoke with The Gleaner said the Government had decided not to accommodate a request by the United States to extradite Bingham.

"The minister of justice will not be signing the request based on our findings. The decision is based on the fact that the evidence presented doesn't support the extradition request," the official said.

A Gleaner investigation has revealed that the decision to deny the US' extradition request follows a special hearing on Wednesday in which Bingham's legal team, as well as members of the attorney general's office, was present.

The Gleaner understands that Attorney General Dorothy Light-bourne who is also justice minister, will inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of the Government's position and that ministry will convey the Government's position to the United States government.Law-enforcement officers have expressed concern about the Government's decision, fearing that it may impact the cases of three other persons who are in custody and awaiting extradition. At least 16 persons have been extradited to the US since last year.

Previous trials

Bingham has been in the extradition wars on more than one occasion.

His latest trial began in October last year when the US, for the second time, requested he be extradited on drug-trafficking charges.

In 2007, the first time there was a request for Bingham, his lawyers had applied to the presiding magistrate to throw out the request on the grounds that local prosecutors had committed an abuse of the process.

Bingham was released by the appeal court in 2007.

The attorneys had also wanted full disclosure of all the communication between the local prosecutors and their counterparts in the US, but this was rejected by the magistrate at the time.