Convicted killer Michael ‘Rat’ Maharaj, one of ten men serving a life sentence for the murder of hanged drug kingpin Dole Chadee’s brother Thackoor Boodram, has again maintained his innocence.
“I was not guilty of that murder,” Maharaj said as he testified at an appeal court hearing which will determine if new evidence that has emerged from the prosecution’s main witness during the trial, is sufficient to exonerate him and eight of his co-accused.
Maharaj was one of three witnesses called yesterday to testify before Appeal Court judges Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Rajendra Narine and Prakash Moosai to verify telephone conversations between himself and the prosecution’s main witness Junior Grandison, who in 2011, swore in a statutory declaration that he lied at the 2001 trial.
Grandison — then the country’s ‘most wanted man’ — is still wanted but only by nine of the ten men who are now seeking their freedom. A summons was issued last week for Grandison’s appearance to give his new evidence at the Court of Appeal but yesterday, he was again a no-show.
Grandison, in his statutory declaration dated June 1, 2011, swore that evidence he gave at the trial, “was false and did not represent the truth.” He was the main witness in the prosecution of ‘Rat’ Maharaj, Samuel Maharaj, Damien ‘Tommy’ Ramiah, Bobby Ramiah, Seenath ‘Farmer’ Ramiah, Daniel ‘Fella’ Gopaul, Richard Huggins, Leslie Huggins, Mark ‘Bico’ Jaikaran and Junior ‘Heads’ Phillip.
They were convicted on August 7, 2001, after a trial which lasted 33 days. The ten lost their appeals before the Court of Appeal but escaped the hangman’s noose because of the delay in hearing appeals at the London Privy Council. Their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.
Boodram was kidnapped and beheaded in 1997. In his testimony yesterday Maharaj verified several telephone conversations he had with Grandison both in 2011 before he gave his statutory declaration, and again earlier this year. Maharaj said he recorded the conversations unknown to Grandison.
Maharaj said he did so as a ‘sting’ because he was afraid that Grandison would go into hiding or would be killed now that he (Grandison) swore that the evidence he gave was a lie. “I wanted everybody to hear him,” Maharaj said. Portions of the recordings were played in court yesterday while other portions were read out from typewritten transcripts.
When Maharaj returns to court today, he will be cross-examined by special State prosecutor Travers Sinanan, who has submitted that the conversations cannot be admitted into evidence in the absence of Grandison’s own testimony.
Also testifying yesterday were attorney Gerald Ramdeen, who prepared Grandison’s statutory declaration, and another witness who asked the judges to remain unknown to the public. In 2015, President Anthony Carmona agreed to have the case remitted to the Court of Appeal to consider Grandison’s evidence.