THE policeman who is alleged to have illegally handed wiretap evidence to United States authorities in the Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke extradition affair, is an innocent man, according to former Police Commissioner Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin.
Lewin, who dramatically dubbed the policeman “Constable Red Herring” in an earlier media interview, told the Sunday Observer that there was no evidence that the wiretapping was even done in Jamaica.
“That is (nonsense)! He (the constable) did no such thing. There is no evidence anywhere, neither stated nor implied, that could be interpreted that any evidence changed hands. None!” said the former Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) chief of staff who became police commissioner.
His remarks sharply contradicted prime minister Bruce Golding’s assertion that wiretap evidence was illegally passed to the United States, in breach of Coke’s constitutional rights.
The Prime Minister said the alleged breach led to the hiring of the United States law firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips to lobby the US administration on treaty matters.
Golding told a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) meeting in August that the breach was the reason for the delay in signing the warrant for Coke’s arrest, having earlier stated in parliament that he was prepared to pay a political price defending Coke’s constitutional rights.
But Lewin, who national security minister Senator Dwight Nelson lashed as a “bitter old man”, said the Government was trying to make the policeman a scapegoat.
Now, months after Coke was held and subsequently extradited to the United States, Lewin said there was nothing in the policeman’s half-page affidavit to suggest that he handed the transcripts of any conversation to anyone.
“Nothing nuh go so,” he said. “The man gave an affidavit. He gave nothing over to the Americans. The affidavit is a half-a-page document, which says ‘I am so and so, I work in such and such a place. I listened to conversations of so and so. If I hear these voices again, I could recognise them’. That is what he said,” Lewin insisted.
If the former police commissioner’s claim is true, the ‘Dudus’ commissioners named by the prime minister last Tuesday should be able to determine if Jamaicans were told a lie about the allegations against the policeman.
“Whose wiretap evidence has been used against Coke? Lewin asked. “There is wiretapped evidence against Coke, but who said it was acquired here in Jamaica or elsewhere? Has the Government said where it was acquired? What did ‘Constable Red Herring’ do?”
Lewin suggested that if there were six witness affidavits against an individual for whom there is an indictment, and two were discredited, “a judicial decision rather than an executive decision should have been the route taken on whether or not to extradite”.
“In other words, let the courts decide,” he said.
Former national security minister Dr Peter Phillips, commenting on Lewin’s claims, said it was the first time that such a fuss was being made over the use of wiretap evidence.
“If the laws needed legal amendments I would have heard and I never heard anything, because it was a non-issue. It became an issue because the Government was trying to find a way to prevent Coke from going overseas on extradition,” Phillips stated.
Phillips’ colleague, former Attorney General A J Nicholson, who admitted giving permission for ‘Dudus’ telephone to be tapped, said too that it was the first time that such a furore was being made over wiretapped evidence.
He said the reasons advanced were spurious, at best.
“No contention over the sharing of information at all. That did not come to us at all…” he said.
According to him, neither he, nor the solicitor general would know, nor need to know, whose phone was being tapped.
“We don’t need to know that. That is a policing matter,” Nicholson said.