US official confirms ‘series’ of new extradition requests

United States Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela fields question from journalists at yesterday’s roundtable at the US Embassy in Kingston.

A high-ranking United States official says there is a series of extradition requests for suspected Jamaican criminals to be processed by the Government, even as he made a push for greater effectiveness of the Proceeds of Crime Act to defeat organised crime here.

United States Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela, in a question-and-answer session with local journalists at the US Embassy in Kingston yesterday, said the US was looking forward to Jamaica’s response to the requests.

“There is a series of extraditions that the United States has requested, and we look forward to those being processed,” he disclosed.

Valenzuela’s disclosure came amidst reports that the United States had prepared two unsealed indictments relating to the case against Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who is currently in US custody following his extradition there last month.

Valenzuela said even during the controversy surrounding Coke — whose extradition followed nine months of delay by the Government — there were other requests which were acted on. However, realising that he may have spoken out of turn, deferred further explanation on the matter to Charge d’Affaires Isiah Parnell.

“We have an extradition treaty that has been in effect for over 20 years. It worked successfully for that time; we extradite, 12 to15, 20 persons per year; that continued even when we had the problem with the one high-profile extradition,” Parnell said.

“Now that this high-profile extradition is over, we will continue to work together with the law enforcement community and as extraditions arise on either side, from either country, we will process them,” Parnell added.

However, Parnell would not say how many more were in the queue or whether they include private, public or elected officials.

“I would not say there is an (increasing number). The range has been between 10 and 20 a year and some of them happen quickly,” he said, adding that he did not believe the new requests could be considered ‘high-profile’ but rather ‘routine’ requests.

He also made it clear that it was not the practice of the embassy to comment on any specific requests, and that there was no outstanding backlog of requests to be processed.

Valenzuela, in the meantime, pressed in whether diplomatic injuries between Jamaica and the United States had been healed, said, “Diplomatic relations are as good as they have ever been, and one of the things we do with all of our partners, and in every country, [is] we have frank, serious discussions. We do that with all of our partners and we are very pleased to be here today…”

“We value very strongly the relationship with Jamaica we may have had a bump in the road with regards to some issues having to do with the extradition, but, we are happy with the way in which we cooperate with Jamaica and look forward to strengthening that relation as we move forward,” he added. He also continued his push for greater use of the Proceeds of Crime Act, saying that the weight of the law must be felt.

“This Act allows the Government to seize the assets of those involved in organised crime, and is one of the clearest ways to demonstrate to all Jamaicans that crime does not pay,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela had earlier met with Prime Minister Bruce Golding and foreign minister Dr Kenneth Baugh.

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