A millionaire from Maryland has been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter after his colleague, 21-year-old Askia Khafra, was found dead in an underground tunnel being built from under his basement, according to the Washington Post.
Daniel Beckwitt, 27, is known to his friends as a computer wizard and successful stock trader but is unusually paranoid about the global state of affairs. What especially concerns him is the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s proclivity to nuclear weapon testing. Last year, the isolated Asian nation generated a lot of controversies after its leader refused to be deterred in his ambitions to test nuclear weapons despite repeated requests from Japan and the United States to stop, leading to a bitter exchange between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.
At one point, Kim Jong Un even bragged about North Korea possessing weapons that could reach America’s East Coast.
And while that threat might have been seen by security experts as nothing more than North Korea attempting to assert itself on the world stage, for Beckwitt it presented very real problems. The millionaire, who has been defined as someone who “just marches to the beat of his own drum” by his lawyer, recruited Khafra to build him an underground tunnel that would save him in the event of North Korea actually going nuclear.
Khafra, who felt indebted to Beckwitt because the Maryland man had invested thousands of dollars in his startup venture, Equity Shark, was enticed into helping him build an elaborate underground bunker complex beneath Beckwitt’s home in a quiet Bethesda neighborhood.
“Mr. Beckwitt represented himself as an angel investor,” Khafra’s father, Dia Khafra, said.
“I wish my son had not been so naive as to trust this gentleman.”
Prosecutors said that Beckwitt went to extraordinary lengths to keep the project secret. He would pick Khafra from his home and then put black glasses on him till he reached the tunnel, and do the same when dropping Khafra back after a day’s work. The tunnels spanned at least 200 feet in length and were under 20 feet of soil, with the millionaire hoping that it would save him in the event of North Korea firing a nuclear weapon on America’s East Coast, which he considered likely.
But a fatal fire broke out in the basement of Beckwitt’s home while Khafra was working inside, leading to the latter’s death by asphyxiation. When firefighters arrived at his Bethesda property, they were stunned to find a bunker complex under his home.
Prosecutors have argued for maximum punishment for Beckwitt, whom they say has a “depraved heart” and a “wanton disregard” for human life, but the millionaire’s lawyer said that although his client is an “unusual individual,” there was nothing “nefarious” in his decision to build a bunker complex to save himself from a North Korea attack.
“There was nothing nefarious about his building of the tunnels. They were just a product of his world view.”
The Maryland man had been held on a $100,000 bond but has been released after meeting the bail amount.