Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cuban authorities arrest British man in corruption probe

Posted on Thursday, 04.26.12

Cuban authorities arrest British man in corruption probe

Architect Stephen Purvis was spearheading an ambitious golf resort
project when he was arrested.
By Juan O. Tamayo

In the latest of Cuba's burgeoning corruption scandals, government
investigators have arrested a British architect who spearheaded an
ambitious project to build a 1,200-home golf resort just east of Havana,
according to news reports.

Architect Stephen Purvis has been chief operating officer for Coral
Capital Group Ltd., a British investment fund that backed the Bellomonte
golf resort and partnered in a $43 million development project in the
port of Mariel, west of Havana.

Rhys Patrick, spokesman for the British embassy in Havana, confirmed
"there's a British citizen arrested and under investigation," according
to reports Wednesday by Radio Martí and Cuba Standard, a Florida-based
Web site on the Cuban economy.

Cuba's investigation of Coral Capital was the latest in a long string of
official corruption scandals that have become known since ruler Raúl
Castro replaced ailing brother Fidel in 2006.

They have hit the aviation, telecommunications, nickel, juice, cigar and
several other industries and led to the arrests or dismissals of scores
of government officials — including Julio Cesar Díaz Garrandés,
boyfriend of Raúl Castro's youngest daughter.

Although Coral Capital's managing partner, Amado Fakhre, also a British
citizen, was arrested in October, the Cuban government has made no
public comment on the case or most of the other corruption scandals.

Coral Capital, registered in the British Virgin Islands, was founded in
1999 to invest in Cuba projects such as the Hotel Saratoga in Havana and
the golf resort. It also owned a trading company that sold heavy
equipment to the Cuban government and financed other import deals.

Its web site has claimed it invested $75 million in Cuba and had more
than $1 billion in projects, including the 650-acre Bellomonte, one of
at least four huge golf resorts that Castro has green-lighted to expand
Cuba's tourism industry.

The Reuters news agency in Havana has reported that the Cuban
investigation involves bribes paid by Coral Capital's trading arm to
usually poorly paid government officials to win large contracts for
state purchases.

The Cuba Standard report noted that many foreign business persons in
Havana are complaining about the lack of transparency in corruption
prosecutions, and one predicted it would be difficult for Cuba to find
foreign investors in the future.

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