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Phillips defends self after Golding alleges improper behaviour

Published:Tuesday | August 31, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Former Minister of National Security Dr Peter Phillips has denied any wrongdoing in not seeking Cabinet approval before signing a document to share information with United States law-enforcement authorities.

Phillips was responding to Prime Minister Bruce Golding who, on Sunday, disclosed that the US authorities relied on a document signed in 2004 by Phillips as justification for using wiretapped information in their request for the extradition of west Kingston strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

According to Golding, when the US declared that it could use the information based on a six-year-old document signed by Phillips, he checked with the police commissioner, who did not know about the agreement.

"I called the Cabinet office and I said, 'Do you know about such and such an agreement that was signed by the previous Government?' and they said, 'No'," charged Golding.

"I directed them. I said, 'Go and search the secret submissions' because there are some submissions that come to Cabinet that are considered highly confidential and therefore they are classified as secret ... because a matter as serious as this could not have been done without the approval of the Cabinet," Golding added.

He said a lengthy search proved that the agreement did not have Cabinet approval or authorisation.

But Phillips yesterday told The Gleaner that he did not need the approval of Cabinet to sign the agreement.

"This was not a treaty. It was a set of understandings under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and never needed to go to Cabinet," Phillips argued.

Full legal authority

He said the agreement was signed with full legal authority and done with the legal advice of the attorney general's chambers and the solicitor general.

"Golding runs his business differently because this is the first time that I am hearing about an extradition request going before the Cabinet," added Phillips.

The Jamaican and American governments spent months at odds over aspects of the extradition request for Coke.

The Jamaican authorities argued that the US had acquired the recorded conversations of Coke in breach of the established treaties and the Jamaican Constitution.

But the US authorities countered, using the agreement signed by Phillips as proof that there was nothing illegal in the information turned over to them, even though a local judge had indicated the persons who should have access to any information from the tap on Coke's phones.

The issue was not resolved even when Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne signed the order for the extradition to proceed.

Coke is now in a US prison facing charges relating to illegal drugs and gunrunning.

He is slated to return to court early next month.