By Alberto de la Cruz on 04/30/2011
As I wrote yesterday, a crime syndicate the size and scope of the Castro
mafia will always have issues with employees attempting to steal from
the family boss. And no one was surprised to find out that one of the
capo's of the Castro crime family was stealing from the boss.
The Economist has more on the lack of honor among thieves in Cuba:
[...] For over a decade Manuel García, Habanos's commercial
vice-president, was the public face of the Cuban cigar industry, living
a jet-set life that most Cubans can only dream of. But this year Mr
García was not there to greet visitors at the Havana cigar festival.
Since August 2010 he has been in jail, accused of masterminding graft on
a grand scale.
The cigar industry was nationalised shortly after the 1959
revolution. But it was only in the late 1980s that Cuba took control of
distribution, informing foreign retailers that it would supply only one
distributor per region, in return for a 50% stake in the business.
That did not prevent the small-scale peddling of black-market
cigars on the streets of Havana. But in the past decade the system has
faced a bigger threat from dozens of online cigar retailers operating
mainly from Switzerland and the Caribbean. Many operated legitimately,
but some offered improbably low prices.
Cuban investigators believe they were able to do so because Mr
García and ten of his staff, who also face trial, sold genuine cigars at
a fraction of their normal price to black-market distributors in the
Caribbean in return for bribes. Up to 45m cigars may have been sold this
way. Since handmade habanos fetch up to £40 ($65) each in shops in the
St James's district of London, the loss was considerable.
The fraud also hurt Imperial Tobacco, a British company which
inherited a 50% stake in Habanos when it bought Altadis, a
Franco-Spanish firm, in 2008. Imperial has made no comment on the
affair. But like the government, it will hope that the new management
team at Habanos preserves the lucrative monopoly in Cuba's most famous
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