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Four jailed in US for ‘Balo’ Maharaj’s murder

By Denyse Renne denyse.renne@trinidadexpress.com

Four Trinidadian nationals, one of whom is a former soldier, have been sentenced by a United States judge on charges of kidnapping  and murder of US citizen Balram “Balo” Maharaj.

Jason Percival was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment; Russel Joseph—11 years; Winston Gittens —ten years, and Leon Nurse, a former defence force soldier, was sentenced to ten years and six months.

The men received their sentences last Friday, in the US District Court for the District of Colombia from Justice John D Bates.

They were charged with one count of hostage-taking resulting in death and two counts of conspiracy to commit hostage-taking resulting in the death of Maharaj.  

Percival also called “Soldier”, Joseph also called “Saucy”, Gittens also called “Mr Gittens” and Nurse also called “Leo” pleaded guilty to the charges. 

On April 16, 2009, Nurse, 49, who held the rank of sergeant whilst enlisted in the service, joined Joseph,  Gittens and  Percival, all of whom pleaded guilty on July  26, 2006; February 27, 2007; and November 16, 2007, respectively. 

The men entered a plea bargain with the US in exchange for their testimonies.

In 2011, former soldier Ricardo De Four, and Trinidadians Zion Clarke, Kevon Demerieux, Anderson Straker, Wayne Pierre, Christopher Sealey and Kevin Nixon were sentenced to life for the roles played in the death of Maharaj.

At the start of the trial the convicted men entered not guilty pleas.

Several local law enforcement officers journeyed to the US to give evidence. Relatives of Balram also gave evidence. 

Officials at the US Justice Department who spoke with the Express in a previous interview said the case depended heavily on the evidence of Percival, Joseph, Gittens and Nurse. 

Nurse was a member of the army’s Special Forces Unit.

Last year, Doreen Alexander-Durity, the former wife of Maharaj, received a 20-year jail term for her involvement in the kidnapping. She will, however, serve nine years, having spent several years jailed awaiting trial.

Alexander-Durity, 49, was described as the master-mind behind the kidnapping by US investigators. 

Initially 12 persons were charged with the kidnapping and murder of Maharaj, however, this figure dwindled when David Suchit, who was extradited in 2007, pleaded not guilty at his trial. 

The 12-member jury returned not guilty verdicts against him and he was subsequently deported to Trinidad.  

On April 6, 2005, Maharaj, 62, was vacationing at his relatives’ home at Chandy Lane, El Socorro, San Juan, when he was abducted at the Samaan Tree Bar in Aranjuez. 

A $3 million ransom demand was reportedly made for his safe release, however, his dismembered body was found on January 8, 2006, in  a forested area in Grand Curacaye, Santa Cruz. Denyse Renne

denyse.renne@trinidadexpress.com


Four Trinidadian nationals, one of whom is a former soldier, have been sentenced by a United States judge on charges of kidnapping  and murder of US citizen Balram “Balo” Maharaj.

Jason Percival was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment; Russel Joseph—11 years; Winston Gittens —ten years, and Leon Nurse, a former defence force soldier, was sentenced to ten years and six months.

The men received their sentences last Friday, in the US District Court for the District of Colombia from Justice John D Bates.

They were charged with one count of hostage-taking resulting in death and two counts of conspiracy to commit hostage-taking resulting in the death of Maharaj.  

Percival also called “Soldier”, Joseph also called “Saucy”, Gittens also called “Mr Gittens” and Nurse also called “Leo” pleaded guilty to the charges. 

On April 16, 2009, Nurse, 49, who held the rank of sergeant whilst enlisted in the service, joined Joseph,  Gittens and  Percival, all of whom pleaded guilty on July  26, 2006; February 27, 2007; and November 16, 2007, respectively. 

The men entered a plea bargain with the US in exchange for their testimonies.

In 2011, former soldier Ricardo De Four, and Trinidadians Zion Clarke, Kevon Demerieux, Anderson Straker, Wayne Pierre, Christopher Sealey and Kevin Nixon were sentenced to life for the roles played in the death of Maharaj.

At the start of the trial the convicted men entered not guilty pleas.

Several local law enforcement officers journeyed to the US to give evidence. Relatives of Balram also gave evidence. 

Officials at the US Justice Department who spoke with the Express in a previous interview said the case depended heavily on the evidence of Percival, Joseph, Gittens and Nurse. 

Nurse was a member of the army’s Special Forces Unit.

Last year, Doreen Alexander-Durity, the former wife of Maharaj, received a 20-year jail term for her involvement in the kidnapping. She will, however, serve nine years, having spent several years jailed awaiting trial.

Alexander-Durity, 49, was described as the master-mind behind the kidnapping by US investigators. 

Initially 12 persons were charged with the kidnapping and murder of Maharaj, however, this figure dwindled when David Suchit, who was extradited in 2007, pleaded not guilty at his trial. 

The 12-member jury returned not guilty verdicts against him and he was subsequently deported to Trinidad.  

On April 6, 2005, Maharaj, 62, was vacationing at his relatives’ home at Chandy Lane, El Socorro, San Juan, when he was abducted at the Samaan Tree Bar in Aranjuez. 

A $3 million ransom demand was reportedly made for his safe release, however, his dismembered body was found on January 8, 2006, in  a forested area in Grand Curacaye, Santa Cruz. 

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