Saturday, May 25, 2013

Canadian executive awaits verdict in corruption trial

Posted on Friday, 05.24.13

Canadian executive awaits verdict in corruption trial
By Juan O. Tamayo

After a two-day trial behind closed doors in a Havana courtroom, Sarkis
Yacoubian goes back to what he has been doing for almost two years —
waiting in a Cuban prison.

The 53-year-old Canadian businessman who operated a trading company in
Cuba is facing three counts of corruption-related charges that could
lead to a 12-year sentence.

His trial Thursday and Friday before a panel of five judges was closed
to the media and no official news has emerged about the proceedings. It
could take up to two weeks for a verdict and a sentence to be announced.

The Cuban government has not even acknowledged that a trial has begun
and the state media has been silent.

The Toronto Star reported earlier this week that the Canadian ambassador
to Cuba, Matthew Levin, attended the trial — a sign of how seriously
Ottawa takes the matter. The Department of Foreign Affairs would not
comment on what the ambassador observed at the trial.

Yacoubian's arrest in July 2011 sent shockwaves through the small
foreign business community in Havana as the Canadian businessman soon
found himself in the center of a widening storm over international
corruption allegations.

In exclusive phone interviews from prison, Yacoubian told the Star that
he cooperated with Cuban authorities and blew the whistle on what he
called the "black forces" of foreign businesses engaged in corruption.

In the wake of Yacoubian's arrest, business executives from at least
five nations were detained and more than a dozen government officials
and state company executives were imprisoned for graft.

For his trial, Yacoubian was whisked in and out of the Criminal Court of
the Peoples' Tribunal for Havana Province and was expected to return to
La Condesa prison on the outskirts of the city.

In Toronto, Krikor Yacoubian said he hoped his brother's cooperation
with Cuban authorities will help him.

"This never would have happened without him, why should he be the fall
guy?" he told the Star. "My hope is that he is going to be free very soon."

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