Friday, April 29, 2011

Report: A leader of Cuba's cigar industry arrested

Posted on Thursday, 04.28.11

Cuba cigar
Report: A leader of Cuba's cigar industry arrested

A leader of Cuba's lucrative cigar industry was arrested in August on
graft charges, a British magazine disclosed this week.
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By Juan O. Tamayo

Manuel Garcia, a long-time vice-president of Cuba's cigar industry, has
been arrested and 10 of his staffers may face trial for corruption,
according to the British news magazine The Economist.

In a report posted Thursday on its Web site, the newsweekly reported
Garcia, the No. 2 at Habanos S.A., has been in jail since August,
"accused of mastermind graft on a grand scale."

Cuban investigators believe Garcia and 10 of his staffers, "who also
face trial,'' were accepting bribes in exchange for selling Cuban cigars
at a discount to black market distributors in the Caribbean, The
Economist reported.

The report on Garcia's previously unknown arrest, datelined in Havana,
could not be independently confirmed late Thursday. Calls to the Habanos
S.A. offices in the Cuban capital were not answered.

Garcia has headed Habanos, the Cuban state monopoly for commercializing
cigars, for more than a decade and often acted as the host of mayor
cigar events such as the annual cigar festival held in the Cuban capital.

Habanos is a 50-50 joint venture between the Cuban government-owned
Cubatabaco and Altadis, a Spanish company owned by Imperial Tobacco, a
British company.

The Economist reported that Imperial Tobacco has no comment on the
Garcia case "but like the (Cuban) government, it will hope that the new
management team at Habanos preserves the lucrative monopoly of Cuba's
most famous product."

Habanos' Web page says it was founded in 1994 to "market all Cuban
tobacco products, both in Cuba and throughout the rest of the world." It
adds that the company now has a presence in more than 150 countries and
that more than 90 percent of its revenues come from its "international
business activity."

Garcia's case was only the latest in a lengthening string of alleged
corruption scandals that have hit Cuba in the past few years.

Civil Aviation Institute President Rogelio Acevedo was fired amid an
investigation into allegations that officials of the state-owned airline
Cubana de Aviacion were pocketing the income from dozens of
off-the-books cargo and passenger flights.

Pedro Alvarez, former head of Alimport, the state agency that handled
billions of dollars in agricultural imports, defected rather than face
state corruption investigators and is now reportedly living in Tampa.

Cuban authorities have asked for the extradition of Max Marambio, a
Chilean Marxist and long-time friend of Fidel Castro, to face corruption
charges in connection with three of his tourism and food processing
companies in Cuba.

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