Sunday, December 23, 2012

New evidence suggests crooked Miami cop pinned double-killing on man who has spent 26 YEARS behind bars

A British millionaire racehorse owner who was once an acquaintance of the Queen was framed for a horrifying double murder by corrupt Miami detectives working for Colombian drug barons, according to documents filed in court last week.

The Mail on Sunday has learned that lawyers acting for Kris Maharaj, 73, who has spent the past 26 years in a series of Florida prisons, have obtained sensational new testimony from Miami Police Department sources directly involved in the 1986 investigation.

These sources – whose identity we cannot reveal as they fear for their safety – say the deliberate framing of Maharaj was not an isolated example, but part of a system which continued for years.

They have given details, which the lawyers have corroborated, of other brutal killings carried out by the drug cartels, where police framed more innocent victims in order to shield their criminal paymasters.

Their allegations now form a central argument of legal documents launching a fresh appeal. These also contain copious, corroborated evidence that the victims of the murders – Derrick Moo Young and his son Duane – and some of the key prosecution witnesses were close to the top of the multi-billion-dollar cocaine trade, which had a virtual stranglehold over Miami’s justice system at the time.

Three days into Maharaj’s 1987 trial, the judge, Howard Gross, was arrested after being filmed accepting a $6,300 bribe from law enforcement agents posing as drug dealers. Yet the trial continued with the same jury and another judge, and Maharaj was convicted and sentenced to death. He spent 16 years on death row, before an appeal court heard other new evidence and commuted his sentence to life in 2002. His earliest release date is 2040, when he would be 101.

Last night Maharaj’s wife, Marita, also 73, who has stood by her husband since the day of his arrest and lives in Fort Lauderdale, near the geriatric prison where he is being held, revealed that he almost died last year from the flesh-eating bug necrotising fasciitis, which destroyed much of his left leg.

She said: ‘For three months I heard nothing from him, and had no information from the prison. I didn’t know whether he was alive or dead.’

It was only when Maharaj’s lead lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, of the charity Reprieve, insisted on seeing his client that Mrs Maharaj discovered what had happened. ‘When I finally saw him, he was in a wheelchair and looked like a prisoner in Nazi concentration camp. He is now recovering. Thankfully, they are going to let me visit him on Christmas Day.’

Maharaj, who had never been in trouble with the law before, always seemed an unlikely perpetrator of a ruthless, execution-style double killing.

Born in Trinidad, he emigrated to Britain in 1960, and lived at first in Peckham, South London.

After working for a time as a lorry driver, he built up business importing exotic fruit which made him a multi-millionaire.

His lifestyle was opulent, and over the years he owned 24 Rolls-Royces, one with the personalised numberplate KNM 1. He had celebrity friends such as the wrestler Mick McManus, and, as a prominent member of the Lord’s Taverners, gave generously to charity.

He and Marita married in 1974, and had four children. That year one of his many horses, King Levanstell, beat a favourite owned by the Queen in the prestigious Queen Alexandra stakes at Ascot.

By the 1980s he was diversifying his business interests, and together with Derrick Moo Young, ostensibly a respectable businessman, invested in property in Florida. However, he discovered that Moo Young was embezzling, and had stolen $440,000 from him. At the time of the murders, Maharaj’s civil lawsuit to recover the money was pending. The dispute, according to the prosecution at his trial, provided his motive.

It was shortly after noon on October 16, 1986, that a maid at Miami’s downtown Dupont Plaza hotel noticed a red liquid spreading across the hallway carpet on the twelfth floor. It was coming from beneath the door of room 1215. Worried it might be blood, she called security.

A security man, Jorge Aparicio, knocked on the door and, later, said a man told him that everything was ‘fine’. Aparicio went back ten minutes later and, this time, there was no reply.

Unlocking the door, he found the body of Derrick Moo Young, 53, who had been shot six times, on the floor near the door. Duane, 23, was kneeling at the foot of the bed. He had been shot through the head at close range with a single bullet. Maharaj has always insisted he was 30 miles north in Fort Lauderdale at the time of the murders, meeting friends and later having lunch at a favourite restaurant. Seven witnesses initially supported his alibi, but one of them, Tino Geddes – supposedly an innocent Jamaican journalist – changed his story at the trial, claiming he had been induced to lie by Maharaj.

For reasons that have never been satisfactorily explained, Eric Hendon, Maharaj’s trial defence lawyer, presented no evidence on his behalf at all, not even calling the other six alibi witnesses. Traced recently by Stafford Smith and a Florida-based colleague, Ben Kuehne, all continue to say they were telling the truth.

Maharaj’s fingerprints were at the murder scene. But the reason, as he told police when he was first interviewed, was that he had been in room 1215 at the Dupont Plaza earlier in the day, having been asked to attend a business meeting about a newspaper he owned. But the man he was supposed to meet did not show and, after waiting, Maharaj left, hours before the killings.

All this, the new appeal documents say, was part of an elaborate strategy to frame Maharaj, which had been set in motion even before the murders. According to new evidence cited in the appeal filing, the man Maharaj was supposed to meet, who had also booked the room, was himself involved in the drug trade.

Further fresh evidence also shows that in the days before their deaths, this man was in frequent telephone contact with the Moo Youngs – presumably to lure them to their deaths.

Having taken on Maharaj’s case in 1994, while he languished on death row, Stafford Smith and Kuehne began a rigorous investigation, in which new disclosures casting doubt on the verdict have continually been thrown up. This was sufficient by 2002 to persuade a judge to quash Maharaj’s death sentence, though not his convictions.

Earlier this year, Stafford Smith published a book about the case, titled Injustice and, since then, still more extraordinary revelations have come to light.

Some concern the Moo Youngs. Portrayed at the trial as almost penniless, with just $20 in their bank accounts, in reality, they controlled funds worth billions, derived from their real business – laundering drug money on a massive scale.

Granted access by a court to police files which were hidden from the trial, Stafford Smith discovered that they had multiple front companies. One, known as Cargil SA, was registered in the Bahamas at the office of a notorious drug cartel lawyer, F. Nigel Bowe. He represented Colombian drug baron Carlos Lehder, co-founder of the notorious Medellin cartel, who was extradited to America and convicted of a huge drugs conspiracy in 1987.

More here

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