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Jamaican drug lord 'Dudus' Coke pleads guilty. Why did his arrest take so long?

While Coke's plea wraps up a long pursuit by US and Jamaican authorities, an examination of the efforts to prosecute him implicate several parties – including Jamaican officials and a US law firm.

By Steven DudleyGuest blogger / September 2, 2011

In this file photo taken Thursday, May 20, 2010, a demonstrator displays a cardboard with a message in support of Christopher "Dudus" Coke during a march in Kingston.

Ian Allen/AP

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Drug lord Christopher Michael "Dudus" Coke pleaded guilty to racketeering in US court this week, closing a dark chapter in Jamaica's history. But the efforts to prosecute him warrant more examination, for the list of guilty parties is long, and some wear white collars.

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Mr. Coke and his gang, the "Shower Posse," made news in May 2010, when they barricaded themselves into the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica, and fought off government attempts to arrest and extradite Coke to the United States. Over 70 died in clashes before Coke turned himself over to authorities the following month.

The Jamaican government had paralyzed the extradition process for months, and there was evidence that Prime Minister Bruce Golding and his Labour Party hired a US legal firm to help Coke fight the request. The party, and more specifically Mr. Golding, depends on votes from Tivoli Gardens to secure power, giving the matter added political weight.

The connections between Coke, a career criminal, and Golding, a career politician, were explored after the extradition by a congressional commission, many of whose members were named by Golding himself.

Some interesting bits of information came from the commission's findings, which were released in June (download report at original post). Golding, for instance, told the commission that he met Coke in 2005.

"He was typical of what is called 'Dons,'" the prime minister testified, "wielding a considerable amount of influence and power, and being held in significant esteem by large numbers of persons."

In other words, Coke equaled votes despite – or possibly because of – his criminal activities. Indeed, one of Coke's nicknames was "President."

The commission says government intelligence reports talked of these criminal activities for years. This network stretched from South America to Mexico to the United Kingdom and United States, the commission says, and included trafficking in illegal narcotics to the United States; gun smuggling; money laundering; murder for hire; and extortion.

The US indictment (download at original post) which dates back to 1994, states:

Since in or about the early 1990s, Coke has controlled the Tivoli Gardens area. Tivoli Gardens is a "garrison" community, a barricaded neighborhood guarded by a group of armed gunmen. These gunmen act at Coke's direction. Coke arms them with firearms he imports illegally, via a wharf located adjacent to Tivoli Gardens.

However, the commission's report does not probe Golding's knowledge of these and other criminal activities that presumably were going on when he first met Coke.

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