Suspected Jamaican Druglord Arrested

After more than a month in hiding, suspected Jamaican drug lord Christopher Dudus Coke was arrested Tuesday outside Kingston. Guest host Tony Cox talks to reporter Karen Madden James who has been following this story from Kingston.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

TONY COX, host:

After more than a month in hiding, suspected Jamaican drug lord Christopher Dudus Coke was arrested Tuesday outside Kingston, acting on tips. Police say they took the 41-year-old iconic fugitive into custody without incident at the Spanish town police station in St. Catherine and then flew him by helicopter to the capital city.

Coke's arrest was immediately followed by calls for calm. His supporters had shown their loyalty to him during a fierce four-day gun battle with police last month. Seventy-six people died as a result. Joining us now from Kingston is Karen Madden James, who has been following the story. Hello, Karen.

Ms. KAREN MADDEN JAMES (Reporter): Thanks for having me, Tony.

COX: The police say they finally caught Dudus Coke with the help of intelligence, which suggests to me that someone may have turned him in. Is that likely, though, given his status there?

Ms. JAMES: It appears to be likely at this moment, Tony, when we asked the police commissioner directly yesterday whether that five million Jamaican dollar bounty, which they had announced last Friday for information leading to Mr. Coke's capture. We asked him if that bounty, that reward was going to be paid out.

He declined to comment. He declined to give us a definitive answer, saying instead that investigations would have to be conducted.

COX: The police put out immediate calls for calm after his arrest. Is it working?

Ms. JAMES: Yes it is. Yes it is, so far so good. We have had no incidents of violence anywhere across the island relating to Mr. Coke's capture. Our state of emergency has been extended (unintelligible). And in fact it was extended in the corporate area for another month and expanded to St. Catherine just yesterday afternoon, before Mr. Coke's capture. The police have been very visible across the streets, but so far no incidents.

COX: What do you say the atmosphere, Karen, on the streets is like? Is it relief, is it anxiety? Are people just cautious? What does it feel like?

Ms. JAMES: I would say there's a mix, Tony. I would say that some persons are relieved, seeing this as moving, you know, we can now continue our lives in another direction, a lot of energies were taken up with this nationwide manhunt for Mr. Coke. So there's relief, but there's also a certain level of anxiety. People hoping that, given what happened last month, people are hoping that we won't go back there.

COX: The next step is extradition to the United States, where Coke is wanted in connection with federal charges that he leads an international crime syndicate known as the Shower Posse. Two question, first, do you know when extradition is likely to occur? We are hearing here that it could be as early as 48 hours. And secondly, what can you tell us about the Shower Posse?

Ms. JAMES: Well, to answer your first question first, Mr. Coke, of course, has the right to a court hearing. And we are hearing since morning that preparations and arrangements are being made. We are understanding that the members of the police, high command, are at this hour meeting with the director of public prosecutions to arrange a speedy court date for Mr. Coke to appear before a magistrate court.

We have already heard that he is waiving his right to fight his extradition. So we expect that to be a very quick process in terms of him going through the Jamaican court system and being handed over to the U.S. authorities who have said that they want him on these drugs and gun-running charges.

And then (unintelligible) second question, not much is known here at this point about the Shower Posse. They haven't really featured locally in recent years. What we are hearing is basically what the U.S. government has said, that Mr. Coke has led this posse that's responsible for scores of murders across the United States.

COX: What does this arrest do to Dudus' legacy, if I can use that word? He was already larger than life to a lot of people there.

Ms. JAMES: We expected that impact, that influence to continue for a little bit. As to how long, we're not sure. When we went into his community of Tivoli Gardens yesterday evening after his arrest, persons were there was a mix there was mixed reactions. Most persons were saying that they were relieved that he had been arrested because there were fears in his community that he would have been killed on site. So there was that relief that he was taken in alive.

Now that the residents are saying, okay, now that you have caught the man that you came into our community looking for, perhaps it's time for the military and the police forces to leave our community.

COX: So what does, to follow that, Karen, what does his arrest do to the alleged operation, his alleged operation in Kingston? Does someone else take over? I know that he has serious family connections there, doesn't he?

Ms. JAMES: Well, that remains to be seen, Tony, of course, on most of his alleged dealings would have been taken over by the security forces when they entered Tivoli Gardens in that May 23 incursion. So it's likely that if any of those remain, then and all of this is alleged because, as you know, Mr. Coke faces no charges here. We'll have to just wait and see.

COX: One of the criticisms of the government, including the presidency in Jamaica has been its inability to deal with Dudus. And some allege other connections possibly improper between Dudus and the presidency of Jamaica. What does this do to all of that?

Ms. JAMES: Well, all of that, mere allegations. We know that's several media houses, especially across North America, have been making this link between Mr. Coke and his organization and the government. The government, of course, has denied any such involvement. To the extent that he has been arrested, then we have to trust that the administration is following the law.

COX: I said president, I misspoke. I meant to say the prime minister.

Ms. JAMES: Prime minister.

COX: So there has not been a connection there. Our time is up. But let me just ask you very briefly, do you sense that things are returning to normal or will?

Ms. JAMES: I think that things will. I think that the average Jamaican just want to get on with their life, want the law to take its course.

COX: Thank you very much. Karen Madden James is a reporter in Kingston, Jamaica.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: