Corrupción – Cuba – Corruption
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February 2014
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Cuba frees jailed Canadian businessman

Posted on Saturday, 02.08.14

Cuba frees jailed Canadian businessman

TORONTO — A Canadian businessman who served 2 1/2 years of a 9-year
prison sentence in Cuba for corruption has abruptly returned to Canada.

Sarkis Yacoubian, president of Tri-Star Caribbean import company, said
Saturday that he’s extremely happy and excited to be home in Toronto.
However, he says he is still adjusting after he was given only 24 to 48
hours’ notice before his release.

Yacoubian was arrested in 2011 by Cuban authorities but was not formally
charged until April 2013 with bribery, tax evasion and “activities
damaging to the economy.” He said that because he was expelled from
Cuba, he is not subject to transfer conditions that would require him to
serve the rest of his sentence in Canada.

“I can’t discuss on what grounds I was expelled,” said the 53-year-old
Yacoubian. “When somebody goes to jail, most of them claim that they
were innocent. It’s not only the facts that support this for me, but
official recognition that supports this,” he said.

“I’m still confused. They released me, 24-48 hours’ notice, I still
don’t know exactly how this whole thing happened. I’m trying to figure
out what happened, who had interest behind it, which were the
organizations or companies that did what they did to me. So it’s just 48
hours. The decision, nobody knew that. They just said we’re going to let
you out,” Yacoubian told The Associated Press from his mother’s home in

He said that he is willing to share his story but wants to consult with
his lawyers, who he said are currently on vacation, before he provides
further details about what he calls a “very interesting, exciting story.”

“I want to be properly vindicated on the highest level once the facts
are there. I’ve already been officially vindicated, but I just can’t
tell you how, but it’ll come out in the next two weeks,” he said.

Yacoubian, who is Armenian, was born in Lebanon, where he studied
international relations before coming to Montreal to earn his MBA at
McGill University. He then ventured to Cuba, where he spent about 20
years. There, he partnered with the Cuban government on multiple ventures.

“(I developed) probably the third or fourth largest company (in Cuba). I
started with $3,000 and that’s where I got millions of dollars of credit
from factories, and all my money was confiscated, so there’s a story
behind the story,” he said.

Two months after Yacoubian’s arrest, authorities raided another
Canadian-run company, the Tokmakjian Group, one of the largest foreign
operations in Cuba. Cy Tokmaakjian, 73, was arrested September 2011. He
remains in Cuba’s La Condesa prison with no charges filed.

Peter Kent, Tokmakjian’s Member of Parliament, told The Toronto Star
that Yacoubian’s release had been expected, but that the news that he
was back in Canada came as a relief.

Kent said that his greater concern was for Tokmakjian, who has spent two
years imprisoned and in frail health. Kent said that Canadian government
representatives “have on a number of occasions asked the Cuban
authorities to either take him to court, lay charges or release him. And
that continues to be our position . . . and that hasn’t happened.”

President Raul Castro has said that rooting out rampant corruption is
one of the country’s most important challenges.

Dozens of Cuban government officials and state company executives have
been imprisoned for graft, while more than 150 foreign businesspeople
and scores of small foreign companies have been kicked out of the country.

Source: TORONTO: Cuba frees jailed Canadian businessman – Business
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