Innocent British businessman Kris Maharaj marks three decades in US jail
October 17, 2016
British businessman Krishna ‘Kris’ Maharaj was arrested in Florida 30 years ago this Sunday (16 October 1986) and sentenced to death the following year. He has now spent three decades in prison, despite compelling evidence of his innocence and poor health.
Mr Maharaj, now 77, was handed a death sentence in Miami in 1987 for his alleged role in the murders of Derrick and Duane Moo Young.
However, since then three former drug cartel operatives and a CIA informant have admitted that the murders were carried out by the Medellín cartel on the orders of Pablo Escobar, who thought the Moo Youngs were cheating him. In addition, leaked evidence, suppressed by the US government, has shown that the Moo Youngs were laundering money for Colombian drug cartels to the tune of five billion dollars.
A former Miami police officer has confirmed that corrupt elements of the police had an agreement with the cartels to facilitate the double murder and protect the true killers.
Despite this, the Florida Court of Appeal recently denied Kris’ latest appeal without any reasons – just the single word “denied”. Mr Maharaj must now seek permission to file in a federal court, where prosecutors will rely on extraordinary US Supreme Court precedent to argue that mere ‘innocence’ cannot be a reason to set a prisoner free.
In 2002, Mr Maharaj’s lawyer, Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith, succeeded in commuting his death sentence to a life term when it came to light that the judge and the prosecution had secretively written an order imposing a death sentence before the judicial sentencing hearing began.
The Florida Parole Commission has informed Mr Maharaj that his eligibility for parole will be considered in April 2042, by which time he will be 103 years old.
Kris Maharaj said:
“As God is my witness, I am 100 percent innocent. I have spent thirty years in prison for a crime I did not commit. The worst of it all is that I cannot be with my beloved wife Marita, let alone look after her. It is sheer torment.”
Reprieve director and Mr Maharaj’s lawyer Clive Stafford Smith said:
“It is hard to see how anyone should be in prison at the age of 77, in a wheelchair, after 30 years, no matter what he might have done. But Kris is innocent. It is simply unbelievable that a society that purports to be civilized would do this to him and to his fantastically loyal wife Marita.”
Kris’ wife Marita Maharaj, who has stood by him all these years, said:
“I could not have imagined, thirty years ago, that we would still be in this mess. I know Kris is innocent because I was with him at the time they say he was committing murder. We both thought it was a terrible mistake that they would sort out in a few days, and here we are, three decades later. I wonder whether I will ever see my husband a free man. He is very unwell, and he means everything to me.”
Notes to editors:
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 7791 755 415. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064.
2. Further detail on Kris Maharaj’s case is available at the Reprieve website, here.