Monday, September 29, 2014

Cubans convicted along with Canadians in corruption case

Cubans convicted along with Canadians in corruption case
HAVANA Sun Sep 28, 2014 6:21pm EDT

(Reuters) - Fourteen Cubans, including two high-ranking officials, were
convicted and sentenced to jail terms ranging from 6 to 20 years in a
corruption case that also condemned three Canadian executives, the
Canadian company said on Sunday.

The case has come under deep skepticism from Western diplomats who have
considered the evidence weak and say it threatens to scare off foreign
investors at a time when Cuba is actively seeking business partners from
abroad. It has also strained Cuba's relationship with Canada.

All 17 suspects who went on trial were convicted in a case that brought
a host of charges including bribery, fraud, tax evasion, and falsifying
bank documents surrounding the Tokmakjian Group.

The Concord, Ontario-based company had been doing business in Cuba for
more than 20 years, mainly selling transportation, mining and
construction equipment with annual sales of about $80 million a year.

The conviction of Canadian executive Cy Tokmakjian, founder of the
Tokmakjian Group, and two others was reported on Saturday. Tokmakjian,
74, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and has already served three
since his arrest.

His company called the case a "show trial" and a "travesty of justice."

Cuba also seized about $100 million worth of the Tokmakjian Group's assets.

Fellow Tokmakjian executives Claudio Vetere and Marco Puche were
sentenced to 12 and 8 years each, respectively, said Lee Hacker, the
company's spokesman and vice president for finance.

Hacker also provided the sentences for the Cuban suspects, who included
Nelson Labrada, the former deputy minister of the defunct Sugar
Ministry, sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Ernesto Gomez, former director of the state nickel company, Ferroniquel
Minera S.A., received a 12-year sentence.

The Tokmakjian Group and the Cubans were caught up in an investigation
of Cuba's international trading sector as part of a crackdown on
corruption by President Raul Castro.

Cuba has been touting a new foreign investment law that took effect this
year, part of an overt campaign to attract foreign direct investment
that is crucially needed for development. The main feature of the law is
to lower taxes. But many foreign companies have said they are more
interested in the general business climate, transparency and the rule of
law, especially in light of this case.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Source: Cubans convicted along with Canadians in corruption case |
Reuters -

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