Corrupción – Cuba – Corruption
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Canadian lawmaker says businessman unfairly held in Cuba

Canadian lawmaker says businessman unfairly held in Cuba
By JUAN O. TAMAYO
The Miami Herald
Published: Wednesday, Apr. 30, 2014 – 1:00 am

A senior Canadian parliament member has taken a punch at Cuba’s new
foreign investment law, saying that one of his constituents has been
jailed on the island since 2011 without trial and has been offered
leniency if he pays questionable debts.

“The international financial community should ponder long and hard the
investment blandishments of Cuban ministers, diplomats and trade
officials,” said Peter Kent, chairman of the House of Commons Defense
Committee.

“Reality is at stark odds with the platitudes” of those officials, Kent
added, going on to detail the case of his constituent, Cy Tokmakjian,
one of several foreign businessmen jailed in Cuba on what they say are
fraudulent corruption charges.

Tokmakjian, 73, a Canadian citizen of Lebanese descent, is president of
Tokmakjian Group, at one point the second-largest Canadian firm
operating in Cuba. He has been jailed since Sept. 10, 2011, for
investigation by Interior Ministry officials.

Kent described the ministry as modeled on the Soviet KGB and East German
Stasi security services. He also noted that all of the other jailed
businessmen come from Canada and Europe – not Cuban allies such as
China, Venezuela or Russia.

Tokmakjian’s assets in Cuba, worth more than $90 million, have been
frozen, and “it seems no coincidence” that the total value of the
government’s claims against him exceeds that amount, Kent wrote in a
column published Tuesday in the Huffington Post.
“There have been suggestions to company representatives that additional
millions sent from Canada could result in a more ‘lenient’ outcome,” he
added. “He has been told, many times, that, if he drops international
claims against Cuba or admits to minor ‘offenses,’ he would have a
lenient trial and be released immediately.”

Tokmakjian has repeatedly denied all the allegations against him, which
include bribery and tax evasion. Kent said the businessman is ready to
defend his case vigorously in a Cuban court.

Kent said that when he visited Cuba in 2010 as minister of state for
foreign affairs in charge of the Americas, Tokmakjian “was characterized
as a valued partner by Cuban interlocutors.” The Canadian company
largely sold imported vehicles to the island’s government.

The parliament member also noted that among the foreign investors who
lost millions in Cuba when they came under suspicion of corruption were
Briton Stephen Purvis, who was working to develop a golf course, and
Frenchman Jean Louis Autret, who ran a string of bakeries and other
businesses.

Another Canadian businessman, Sarkis Yacoubian, was expelled from Cuba
in February after serving about one-third of a nine-year sentence. He
was arrested in July 2011 and was convicted in April 2013 of bribery,
tax evasion and “activities damaging to the economy.”

Yacoubian, who ran a $30 million trading company in Cuba, Tri-Star
Caribbean, told the Toronto Star newspaper that he had cooperated with
investigators and hoped to receive a lenient sentence. Cuban officials
never explained his expulsion.

He and Tokmakjian were imprisoned at La Condesa, a facility on the
outskirts of Havana reserved for foreigners and important Cuban
government officials

Source: Canadian lawmaker says businessman unfairly held in Cuba – Wire
Lifestyle – The Sacramento Bee –
http://www.sacbee.com/2014/04/30/6368184/canadian-lawmaker-says-businessman.html

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