Jamaican gang leader arrives in US
Following bloodshed over his capture, Jamaican gang leader Christopher "Dudus" Coke has arrived in New York City under tight security to face charges he flooded the East Coast with shipments of cocaine and marijuana, authorities said.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents brought Coke by plane to an airport in White Plains, New York, hours after he waived his right to extradition in Jamaica.
In agreeing to leave Jamaica without a legal fight, Coke said he was saddened by the 76 lives lost in street clashes between fiercely loyal supporters and security forces in his power base of the Tivoli Gardens slum. He said he hopes his decision will help Jamaica heal.
"I take this decision for I now believe it to be in the best interest of my family, the community of western Kingston and in particular the people of Tivoli Gardens and above all Jamaica," Coke said in a statement, his first public comments since the US requested his extradition in August.
Coke, 42, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison in the US if convicted of drug and gun trafficking charges.
An indictment alleges that since 1994, members of Coke's notorious Shower Posse gang in Jamaica and their US counterparts "have sold narcotics, including marijuana and crack cocaine, at Coke's direction". The US cohorts, the indictment said, "commonly send cash and good, including clothing and electronics to Coke as 'tribute' payments, in recognition of his leadership and assistance". The tribute payments also include firearms, the court papers added.
Coke was captured on Tuesday after a month-long manhunt. He was disguised in a wig and riding with the Rev Al Miller, an influential evangelical preacher who said Coke was on his way to surrender at the US Embassy.
The 15-minute extradition hearing was held under heavy security at a military outpost in Kingston, the Caribbean nation's capital, out of fear of possible attacks by supporters.
The government initially resisted the extradition request in a nine-month stand-off with the United States that became a political liability for Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who represents Tivoli Gardens' district in parliament. Golding, whose governing party has long-standing ties to gangs in Tivoli Gardens, narrowly survived a no-confidence vote over his handling of the case earlier this month.
After Mr Golding announced he would relent on the extradition request, security forces and gunmen loyal to Coke battled for four days, leaving 76 dead. The prime minister described the fight as a turning point in Jamaica's struggle with organised crime.