Suspected drug and gun trafficker Christopher “Dudus” Coke was at the center of at least 50 deaths in Kingston, Jamaica, as of May 26; but his involvement doesn’t include drug overdoses or illegal arms. The deaths are the result of battles between Jamaican citizens trying to protect him and government officials trying to capture and extradite him to the United States.
The U.S. says Coke is a cocaine and gun kingpin responsible for untold numbers of drug and gun deaths. Coke’s Kingston neighbors say he’s a benefactor to impoverished people.
The people trying to stop Coke’s extradition to New York know him as a kind man who tirelessly supports and assists a largely destitute population. To many in Kingston, he is a savior in a place where nobody else seems to care. Of course, families of cocaine addicts, gunshot casualties and overdose victims in the U.S. have a starkly different view.
In the U.S., people are angry at the devastation by which Coke is alleged to have built a fortune. In Kingston, people are incensed that someone is trying to kidnap and imprison the only one that is willing to spend a fortune to help them.
Well, guess I can cross Jamaica off the places that would still welcome an American tourist on vacation. Geez, this list is getting short.
He was caught puffin' illicit cigarettes
Typically, the mention of Jamaican drug smugglers crops up one word – marijuana; however, a recent transition may surprise some as the joints and narcotics once exported from the island-nation are replaced by something far less sinister, and considerably more legal: Cigarettes. Authorities speculate that the trend is driven by the typical drug lord’s desire to evade harsh narcotics-related penalties; but, they apparently forgot that a breach of the Trade Marks Act can also garner immense fines, and serious jail time. In other words, smuggling cigarettes is also very illegal.
What'd you expect them to be smuggling - drugs?
Nevertheless, the industry is shifting gears from wacky-tobacky back down to just regular old tobacco. Yep, just last week, $300-million worth of illegal Craven A cigarettes were discovered; a marked increase from last month, when over 400 cases of illicit cigarettes (valued at $120 million) were seized by the Jamaica Customs Contraband Enforcement Team.
According to the director of corporate and regulatory affairs at British American Tobacco (BAT), Michael Prideaux, the estimated global market for illicit cigarettes is around 390 billions sticks a year ( which translates to 6 percent of this planet’s cigarette consumption). A rough estimate suggests that 44-50 million of these cancer-sticks find their illicit way to Jamaica.
And that’s only the beginning as more international drug kingpins try for their share of this lucrative business.