A British national convicted 26 years ago of a double murder in Miami is expected to submit new evidence at an upcoming court hearing that could exonerate him and instead implicate late Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in the killings.
Krishna Maharaj is a former importer who once owned Britain's second-largest stable of racehorses and a fleet of 24 Rolls-Royces. He was a millionaire and noted socialite who rubbed elbows with England’s elite.
But he was sentenced to death by a Florida jury for the October 1986 killing of Derrick Moo Young, 53, and Young’s 23-year-old son, Duane, both of Jamaica, in room 1215 of the Miami Dupont Plaza Hotel.
The death sentence was eventually overturned, after Maharaj spent 15 years on death row. But a judge later sentenced him to another 25 years to life in prison, bringing his total sentence to 53 years to life, including a mandatory three years for using a firearm in a felony.
Now, The Mail on Sunday is quoting an Escobar henchman as saying Maharaj was actually framed for those murders – killings the kingpin ordered himself, after learning the Moo Youngs were skimming from a money laundering operation they ran on his behalf.
In its article, The Mail does not reveal the true identity of the Escobar henchman for fear of reprisals against him.
"I know the details about Cuchilla’s involvement because he admitted to me that he had done it."
- "El Asistente"
But the paper cites a man identified as “El Asistente,” as saying in sworn statements, “I am giving this [statement] because I have reconnected with my religious faith. The idea that Krishna Maharaj has served more than a quarter-century in prison for a crime I know he did not commit appalls me. I want to set the record straight and ensure he gets justice.”
El Asistente also directed Maharaj’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, to a smuggler and one-time cartel financier named Jamie Vallejo Mejia, who records reportedly show was actually staying at the Dupont Plaza when the Moo Young killings occurred.
According to The Mail on Sunday, investigators hired by Stafford Smith tracked down Mejia in Colombia, where he reportedly said that the day before the Moo Young murders happened, he visited the father and son and ordered them to make restitution for their skimming.
He reportedly said the Moo Youngs gave him a phony letter of credit for a million dollars to be drawn on a New York bank. “The letter of credit turned out to be false,” El Asistente told the Mail on Sunday. “When this was ascertained, the order was given to kill them.”
Maharaj formed a property business in the 1980s with the Moo Youngs before their murders, The Mail on Sunday reports.
However, Maharaj soon realized the father and son were embezzling from him, as well – to the tune of nearly $500,000.
The swindle, along with the discovery of Maharaj’s fingerprints in the Moo Young’s hotel room, aided in his conviction.
Maharaj has insisted he visited the father and son earlier on the day of the murders to attempt to resolve the financial dispute, but that he was having lunch 30 miles away in Fort Lauderdale when the killings occurred.
Now, El Asistente tells the Mail on Sunday the true assassin at the Dupont Plaza was a man named Guillermo Zuluaga, a known cartel hit man who once claimed the nom de guerre, “Cuchilla,” which translates to “The Blade.”
"I know the details about Cuchilla’s involvement because he admitted to me that he had done it," El Asistente told the British paper.
"Escobar complained directly to me that the Moo Youngs had stolen his money and that of his partners and had to die," he reportedly added. "Escobar told me the money was entrusted to middlemen to be taken to Switzerland. They were also using a bank in Panama that the Moo Youngs said they or their contacts controlled."
Next month’s hearing in a Florida court will reportedly be Maharaj’s final chance to appeal.