A UNITED STATES judge has sentenced Trinidadian Doreen Alexander-Durity, the former wife of naturalised US citizen Balram “Balo” Maharaj, to 20 years in prison for her involvement in his kidnapping in 2005.
Alexander-Durity, 48, of Arima, was the last of 12 Trinidadians to be prosecuted in the United States for Maharaj’s kidnapping and ultimate death while in the hands of his abductors.
US District Judge Emmet G Sullivan imposed the sentence on Wednesday and also ordered that Alexan-
der-Durity serve five years of supervised release, following her prison term.
Commenting on the swift pace with which the matter was determined, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday said the system of justice in the US was one that was worthy of emulation.
He told the Express during a telephone interview that Alexander-Durity’s conviction was facilitated by her swift extradition from this country in April. Ramlogan said it was the Government’s intention to adopt some of the measures used in the United States’ justice system into our own to ensure speedy justice in this country.
“The Government is committed to working with the United States and implementing some of its measures to ensure quick justice in this country,” said Ramlogan.
Maharaj, 62, a Trinidadian citizen, was kidnapped from the Samaan Tree Bar in Aranjuez on April 6, 2005, and later murdered. A $3 million ransom demand was not paid for his safe release. His remains were found in two containers, deep inside the Santa Cruz forest, on January 8, the following year.
The United States Department of Justice yesterday issued a media release stating Alexander-Durity, 48, pleaded guilty on October 3 to the lesser count of conspiracy to commit hostage-taking as opposed to the initial charge of conspiracy to commit hostage-taking that resulted in death.
The case against Alexander-Durity was that she initiated Maharaj’s kidnapping by providing information to his abductors that allowed them to identify and locate him.
The release stated Alexander-Durity alerted the kidnappers to Maharaj’s visits to this country, “gave them information on his wealth, which was used to calculate the ransom, and reassured the kidnappers they had the right man after the ransom negotiations went awry”.
In late 2009, Alexander-Durity was indicted in the United States for Maharaj’s kidnapping by a grand jury at the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Washington DC.
The three-count indictment had alleged that she, along with Anderson Straker and others, conspired to kidnap both Maharaj and his son Dinesh Maharaj between the period January 1 and February 28, 2005.
The indictment had also alleged Alexander-Durity aided and abetted the seizure or detention of Balram Maharaj in order to compel a third party to pay a ransom between March 1 and April 15, 2005, resulting in his death.
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) met with Alexander-Durity in this country in November 2009 as they sought to have her willingly agree to be prosecuted in the United States, but she declined.
On November 5, 2011, Straker, 39, along with six other Trinidadian nationals—Zion Clarke, 35; former Defence Force special forces soldier Ricardo De Four, 40; Kevon “Ketchit” Demerieux, 30; Kevin “Shaka” Nixon, 35; Wayne “Ninja” Pierre, 44; and Christopher “Boyie” Sealey, 41—were all sentenced to life in prison by Judge John Bates in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.
They are all currently serving their sentences in a United States prison.
Prior to the 2009 trial, four others pleaded guilty to two charges: hostage-taking resulting in death, and conspiracy to commit hostage-taking resulting in death.
The four are former Defence Force officer Jason Percival, 39; Russell Jerry Joseph, 39; Winston Gittens, 47; and former Special Forces soldier Leon Nurse, 48.
Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar had ordered Alexander-Durity be extradited to the United States in April of last year, but this order was challenged at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.
Alexander-Durity had filed a writ of habeas corpus to prevent her from being extradited, but this was dismissed by Justice Frank Seepersad. She was extradited in April 2013.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Miami Division Extraterritorial Squad, with the assistance of the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the FBI’s Legal Attache’s Office in Port of Spain, the Anti-Kidnapping Squad and the Homicide Bureau of Investigations.