Cy Tokmakjian's family disputes Cuba charges after Canadian sentenced
Businessman's wife pleads for husband to be reunited with his family
back in Canada
CBC News Posted: Sep 29, 2014 9:12 AM ET Last Updated: Sep 29, 2014 9:31
The family of Canadian businessman Cy Tokmakjian is calling on Cuba to
release him days after he was sentenced to prison, citing his innocence
on corruption-related charges and a desire for the 74-year-old to be
reunited with his loved ones.
"I want my husband and my children's father and my grandkids'
grandfather to be home as soon as possible," the businessman's wife,
Helen Tokmakjian, said Monday.
Speaking to media alongside her children, Tokmakjian said "he's innocent."
Cy Tokmakjian's 15-year sentence 'outrageous,' Peter Kent says
Cuba hands Canadian businessman 15-year sentence on corruption charges
Cy Tokmakjian, who owns the Ontario-based Tokmakjian Group, was one of
several foreign executives swept up in a Cuban campaign against
corruption in 2011. He was handed a 15-year sentence on Friday.
During an emotional news conference in Vaughan, Ont., on Monday morning,
Raffi Tokmakjian said his father is innocent and determined to fight for
He hasn't seen his father in three years, but described him as a proud
man with "the utmost integrity."
"Every time he calls he reminds us, he says, 'I've done nothing, you
know that. Everybody knows that. You cannot stop fighting for what's
right,'" Raffi Tokmakjian said.
"'They've already taken three years of my life, but I will not admit to
anything I have not done.'"
The company's Cuban offices were raided in 2011 as Cuba launched an
anti-graft drive that has swept up foreign business executives from at
least five countries, as well as government officials and dozens of
Cuban employees at key state-run companies.
Tokmakjian, who has a home in Havana, was arrested in September of that
year along with two other company executives and charged with
corruption, conducting unauthorized financial transactions and illegally
taking large amounts of money out of the country.
'Not an isolated event'
Circumstances for Tokmakjian and other foreigners doing business in Cuba
changed in 2011 when Cuba's Communist Party elected Raul Castro to
succeed older brother Fidel Castro as president.
Havana-based freelance reporter Abel Gonzales said companies like
Tokmakjian's were raided and shut down, and their owners were arrested.
"It was not an isolated event. It also happened with other foreign
companies. It was part of the initiative of Raul Castro to fight
corruption in high levels of the government," Gonzales said.
Foreign Affairs said consular services are being provided, and officials
are in contact with authorities in Havana and continue to monitor the
Cuba's judicial system is known for speedy proceedings behind closed
doors with little or no media access. Cuban officials have said little
about the Tokmakjian case beyond announcing last year that the
Tokmakjian Group's operating licence had been rescinded due to
Tokmakjian managers Claudio Vetere and Marco Puche got 12- and
eight-year sentences, respectively, company vice-president Lee Hacker
told The Associated Press.
'Gross miscarriage of justice'
Conservative MP Peter Kent, whose Thornhill, Ont., riding includes the
company's headquarters, visited Tokmakjian in prison last year.
"He disproved every specific allegation. They simply couldn't find any
hard evidence against him."
Tokmakjian was given the 15 years without the benefit of a sentencing
hearing, Kent said.
"Which is, I suppose, the ultimate chapter in this gross miscarriage of
Kent said Tokmakjian's best chance could be a transfer to a Canadian
prison to serve out the rest of his sentence, or the Cuban government
could simply expel him.
Meanwhile, Tokmakjian's company has launched legal action against Cuba's
government over an estimated $100 million in assets it seized.
Source: Cy Tokmakjian's family disputes Cuba charges after Canadian
sentenced - Toronto - CBC News -