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Ambassador Coye Testifies On Day One Of Manatt/Coke Enquiry

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Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Ambassador Evadne Coye, said on (January 17) that during a meeting with the United States State Department (USSD), the argument was put forward that the way in which the wire tap evidence on Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke had been conveyed to the U.S. authorities constituted a breach of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty by the U.S. government.

Ambassador Coye, who was the first and only witness on day one at the Commission of Enquiry into the handling of the extradition request for Mr. Coke, said Solicitor General, Douglas Leys, had pointed out that the sharing of the evidence would have had to be authorised by order of the court before it could have been passed on to the U.S. authorities.

“He (Leys) stated that nowhere was there any evidence that such an authority had been granted by the courts of Jamaica,” she said.

Mrs. Coye said one of the other points that came up at the December 17 meeting in Washington D.C., was the national security concerns that might arise for Jamaica in the execution of the extradition request.

“The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the U.S. and Jamaica has an Article entitled, Limitations on Assistance, and one of the provisions is that the central authority may deny a request if it determines that the execution of the request would prejudice security or other essential public interests of the requested state,” she testified.

The Ambassador further testified that the USSD retained its position during the meeting, noting that they had not breached any agreement and that they knew nothing of any Interception of Communications Act.

She said they further argued that the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty also stated that that treaty was not the exclusive means by which collaboration between both states could be pursued.

“They stated that they did not have any evidence to prove that the way the information was conveyed to them was breaching any Jamaican law. They were operating using the normal procedures, which had guided that collaboration,” she testified.  

The Permanent Secretary testified that on December 16, 2009, she went to the Washington residence of former Jamaican Ambassador to the United States, Anthony Johnson, in preparation for a meeting with the USSD and the Department of Justice, along with other members of the government delegation, which included Mr. Leys and Deputy Solicitor General, Lackston Robinson.

She said that a representative from the American law firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, whom she later found out was Kevin DeGregory was also at the meeting.

Ambassador Coye further testified that Mr. Robinson told her that the Solicitor General had included the U.S. lawyer in the delegation because he understood the American legal system and that he was familiar with the functions of the Justice Department, because he was a former employee there.

The Commission of Enquiry was established by Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding last October to probe the events leading up to Mr. Coke’s extradition, including the hiring of the U.S. law firm, Manatt, Phelps and Phillips. The hearing is being held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston.

It is being chaired by Queen’s Counsel Emil George, assisted by Retired Permanent Secretary, Anthony Irons, and Queen’s Counsel Donald Scharschmidt. The Government has earmarked approximately $40 million to fund the enquiry.

The Commission is expected to conclude its hearings on February 28, 2011.

The Enquiry has been adjourned until Thursday. It is also expected that those who have not yet submitted statements will do so before Friday afternoon. 

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