KINGSTON (Reuters) - Alleged drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke was extradited to the United States on Thursday, after waiving his right to a trial in Jamaica.
Police arrested Coke, 42, on the outskirts of Kingston on Tuesday, peacefully ending a manhunt for the notorious fugitive that began with deadly raids in the Jamaican capital last month.
He waived his right to an extradition trial during a brief court appearance on Thursday, which was held under tight security near the Park Camp military and police headquarters where he had been held since his arrest.
After signing a consent order, Coke was put aboard a flight to New York, where he was indicted last year on drug and gun trafficking charges, Jamaican police said. Coke was in the custody of agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, a U.S. government official said.
In a two-page typewritten statement issued through his lawyer Tom Tavares Finson, Coke told the Jamaican court that he was leaving with a heavy heart but convinced he would be vindicated and eventually allowed to return to his Caribbean homeland as a free man.
“Pray for me and God bless Jamaica,” Coke said.
He said he had taken the decision to waive his right to a trial on his own free will and had “done so even though I’m of the belief that my case would have been successfully argued in the court of Jamaica.”
U.S. prosecutors have described him as the current leader of the “Shower Posse” that murdered hundreds of people during the cocaine wars of the 1980s.
Seventy-six people were killed in four days of gun battles last month when police and soldiers stormed the Tivoli Gardens slum in west Kingston in an attempt to take Coke into custody.
He commanded a private militia and his supporters burned down two police stations and shot up four others in an attempt to prevent Coke’s extradition during attacks that preceded last month’s deadly raids.
“Everyone in the country has been adversely affected by the process that has surrounded my extradition and I hope that my actions today will go some way toward healing all who have suffered and will be of benefit to the community of Tivoli Gardens,” Coke said in his statement to the court.
“I deeply regret the unnecessary loss of life, both civilians and members of the security forces.”
Coke was a strong supporter of the ruling Jamaica Labor Party and wielded powerful influence in the west Kingston slums. Jamaica initially refused to extradite him and the case had strained relations between the United States and Jamaica.
When he was captured on Tuesday, he was in the company of a clergyman who had arranged for Coke to bypass local police and surrender at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston.
Jamaican police stopped them at a road checkpoint on the way to the embassy, recognized Coke despite the curly-haired wig he wore as a disguise and arrested him.
The minister, the Reverend Merrick “Al” Miller, was charged on Thursday with perverting the course of justice and harboring a fugitive.
Editing by Tom Brown and Jane Sutton