| HAVANA, July 7
HAVANA, July 7 Cuba has prosecuted and is likely
to send Canadian businessman Cy Tokmakjian to prison after he
denounced corruption in the Havana government's awarding of
contracts, his company said on Monday.
"Cy Tokmakjian spoke out against corruption as it was clear
the company was losing contracts to others for unexplained
reasons. It's possible this outspokenness led to what is now
happening," Lee Hacker, vice president of finance for the
company, said in a statement on Monday.
Tokmakjian and two other Canadian citizens from his
transportation company, the Tokmakjian Group, which has done
business in Cuba for 22 years, stood trial on charges of bribery
and other economic crimes in June.
A verdict and sentencing in the closely watched case are
Cuban prosecutors are seeking a 15-year prison term for
Tokmakjian and 12 years each for his managers, fellow Canadians
Claudio Vetere and Marco Puche. All three have maintained their
innocence, and the company has said it fears the outcome was
"We are prepared and expecting the typical outcome from the
court, which must follow directions from above," Hacker said.
Fourteen Cubans including a former deputy minister of the
Sugar Ministry have also been accused in the case of charges
that include bribery, tax evasion, falsifying bank documents.
They face sentences of 8 to 20 years if convicted.
Tokmakjian was arrested in 2011 and held for nearly 2-1/2
years before being charged after his company was caught up in a
crackdown on corruption by President Raul Castro. The trial took
place June 9 to 21.
The Ontario-based Tokmakjian Group did an estimated $80
million in business annually with Cuba, mainly selling
transportation, mining and construction equipment. It was the
exclusive Cuba distributor of Hyundai, among other
brands, and a partner in two joint ventures replacing the motors
of Soviet-era transportation equipment.
The company said Cuba was continuing a pattern of
demonizing successful foreign investors that the communist
government wants to get rid of, citing the case of British
businessman Stephen Purvis, who was convicted of financial
crimes and released in 2012 after being held for 15 months.
"Cy was outspoken and gave his opinion on matters to
high-ranking Cuban officials. Some of his opinions may have been
controversial, others are now part of the economic reforms that
are taking place," Hacker said.
Tokmakjian, 74, should have been praised by the Cuban
government for running a company that "operated as angels at all
times," the statement said.
Cuba has been touting a new foreign investment law that took
effect recently, saying it was crucial for attracting the
foreign investment 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 Cynthia Osterman)