(Jamaica Observer) SEVEN months ahead of his release from a United States federal prison on drug charges, Buju Banton is again in the spotlight.
Yesterday, American network ABC News released a previously unsealed undercover video from Buju Banton’s last meeting with a US Government informant.
According to the news organisation, its appeal to a federal judge to have the footage released was accepted.
“It offers the most complete account of how Banton, 44, ended up in a US prison, convicted of two counts for his role in a conspiracy to sell cocaine,” said the story accompanying the video. “But Banton has maintained his innocence, insisting he never intended to go through with a drug deal and was only guilty of ‘running my mouth’.”
ABC News’ requests from Buju Banton for comment went unanswered. Spokesmen for the investigators and prosecutors also declined to comment.
The video footage — dated December 8, 2009 — shows four men in a room, including the lanky reggae artiste who is clad in a white T-shirt. One of the men cuts a brick of what appears to be cocaine, while the others watch.
A closed-captioned narration shows the man who opened the package, referred to as “Johnson”, asking Banton, “Do you like?”. Banton responds: “I like it.” The entertainer then tastes the substance and walks away.
Johnson is Alex Johnson who the entertainer testified in court he met on an eight-hour flight from Madrid (Spain) to Miami (Florida).
According to court records, Johnson is an ex-con who made millions of dollars working as an informant with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Despite the deejay’s supporters arguing he was set up, prosecutors say Banton “demonstrated familiarity with the drug trade” and deliberately laid the groundwork for a drug deal.
Banton, given name Mark Myrie, is being held at the McRae Correctional Facility in Georgia. He is slated to be released on December 8 and deported to Jamaica.
Despite his incarceration, he enjoys a loyal following. At a press briefing on the Love and Harmony Cruise in March, it was announced that his first gig after being released could be in Trinidad and Tobago on April 22, 2019. A firestorm ensued and there was a subsequent retraction of the statement.
Buju Banton is known for songs including Browning, Champion, Driver, and the 1995 album Til’ Shiloh. His Before the Dawn won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.