June 24, 2010 / 5:21 PM / in 9 years

Suspected Jamaican drug lord faces handover to U.S.

KINGSTON (Reuters) - Suspected drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke faced imminent extradition to the United States on Thursday after waiving his right to a trial in Jamaica.

Alleged drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke wears a helmet and a flak jacket in this handout photograph released to Reuters June 23, 2010. REUTERS/Handout

Police arrested Coke, 42, on the outskirts of Kingston on Tuesday, peacefully ending a manhunt for the fugitive that began with deadly raids in the Jamaican capital last month.

He waived his right to an extradition trial on Thursday during a brief court appearance under tight security near the military and police headquarters where he has been held since his arrest.

Police said authorities intended to bundle him aboard a U.S.-bound flight by 3 p.m.

In a two-page typewritten statement issued through his lawyer, Tom Tavares Finson, Coke said 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.

Coke is wanted on drug and gun-running charges in New York and 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 burnt down two police stations and shot up four others in an attempt to prevent Coke’s extradition before last month’s deadly raids.

Coke was a strong supporter of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party and wielded powerful influence in the west Kingston slums. Jamaica initially refused to extradite him to New York for trial after his indictment last year, and the case had strained relations between the United States and Jamaica. (Editing by Tom Brown and Doina Chiacu)

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