Jamaican drug kingpin admits racketeering

Christopher "Dudus" Coke pleads guilty to racketeering charges in New York court, 15 months after arrest in Kingston.

    Coke was captured on June 22, 2010, after a five-week operation in Kingston, Jamaica's capital [EPA]

    Jamaican drug kingpin Christopher "Dudus" Coke has pleaded guilty in a New York court to racketeering charges more than a year after a manhunt to capture the fugitive led to deadly gun battles in his home country.

    Coke also admitted conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering.

    He entered the plea on Wednesday in a US district court in Manhattan to charges that carry a potential penalty of 23 years in prison. Sentencing was set for December 8.

    Coke was captured on June 22, 2010, after a five-week operation in Kingston, Jamaica's capital, which left scores of people dead in clashes between his supporters and security forces. 

    Later that month, Coke was extradited to the US. He said he had decided to face justice there in order to help end the violence in Jamaica

    Coke told the court he was the leader and organiser of the "Presidential Click" drug organisation, which authorities said had distributed drugs worldwide since 1994, including to New York City, Miami and Kingston, Jamaica.

    "I directed certain activities, not limited to distribution of cocaine and crack cocaine" in Jamaica and the US, Coke told Robert Patterson, the US district judge.

    "I also ordered the purchase of firearms and the importation of those firearms into Jamaica in furtherance of this conspiracy."

    In a statement, US lawyer Preet Bharara said: "For nearly two decades, Christopher Coke led a ruthless criminal enterprise that used fear, force and intimidation to support its drug and arms trafficking 'businesses'.

    "He moved drugs and guns between Jamaica and the United States with impunity. Today's plea is a welcome conclusion to this ugly chapter of criminal history.''

    Surrender and arrest

    Seventy-six people were left dead during the manhunt for Coke.

    The government declared a state of emergency in central Kingston, which was deserted for days as the conflict trapped people in their homes with no food and water.

    The running gun battles sullied Jamaican efforts to project itself as tourist destination.

    Coke was well known in Jamaica as a businessman who promoted shows and gave strong support to the ruling Labour Party.

    He also kept a high public profile in the ghettos west of Kingston, where he was respected as a Robin Hood figure.

    Reportedly handing out cash and school supplies to needy children, Coke was credited with helping to keep order by using his authority to punish thieves and other criminals in an area where the government has little presence.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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