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EDITORIAL - Extradition in Mr Golding's wonderland

Published:Wednesday | March 31, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The controversy over Jamaica's continued refusal to extradite Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, or to have the matter adjudicated upon by the courts, grows, as Alice (in Wonderland) would say, "curiouser and curiouser".

In his parliamentary statement defending his administration's decision, Mr Golding led Jamaicans to believe that the wiretap evidence used by the Americans in support of their request for Mr Coke to be extradited to the United States (US) to answer charges of drug trafficking and gun smuggling was illegally obtained. That evidence, therefore, the Government's argument went, would be inadmissible in Jamaican court and could not be used to convict Mr Coke, the reputed 'don' of the prime minister's West Kingston parliamentary constituency.

It turns out, based on a leaked government document, aimed at shoring up the administration's position, that the bugging of Mr Coke's mobile phone(s) was authorised by a judge in chambers, in accordance with Jamaica's wiretap law. No rogue business here.

Defective claim

What the Government does claim, though, is that a police constable, who was involved in the intercept, was not authorised, under the court's warrant, to disclose the information to the Americans, which he did. It is this action, the Government now holds, that makes the American claim on Mr Coke defective.

This claim lacks the legal certitude upon which the attorney general and justice minister, Dorothy Lightbourne, should wish to rest the exercise of her authority to decline an extradition request. It, at best, raises a moot point of law, which we are now more convinced demands arbitration by the courts.

But what we - as would Alice in her fantastical world - find particularly curious is the Government's approach to the unnamed constable who supposedly made the unauthorised disclosure to the Americans.

The administration, the Government's brief disclosed, requested the US to disclose the name of the cop and the circumstances under which he provided the information, "in order that steps may be taken to investigate the matter with a view to laying criminal charges ... (against him) and provided he is in our jurisdiction, to place him before the court".

Innocence or guilt

However, as much as the Government might wish it to be so, the mere assertion that this constable breached the Interception of Communication Act does not make it fact. That would have to be tested by the court before it ruled on innocence or guilt.

It is this same test, based on the same information, that the Government should allow the courts to apply in the extradition request for Mr Coke. Let the resident magistrate, or appeal judges, decide whether the evidence proffered by the Americans is admissible.

On the face of it, the administration runs the risk of being accused of double standards in its approach to this matter.

On the one hand, it appears eager to throw this police constable, based on the thin information of its brief, before the courts for a breach of the law. On the other hand, it seems intent on erecting barriers and hurdles to Mr Coke reaching that same place.

If Mr Golding is confident about his position on Mr Coke, he should haul the barriers down and let the courts decide.

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