Canadian company lays out defense case for its jailed CEO

Sun Oct 5, 2014 6:41pm EDT
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By Daniel Trotta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Defense lawyers for a Canadian executive sentenced to 15 years prison in Cuba on bribery and other charges released a raft of documents on Sunday seeking to bolster their case that Cy Tokmakjian was denied a fair trial.

Tokmakjian's transportation company said crucial evidence prepared by the defense team was not accepted by the five-judge panel during the two-week trial in June, and relevant witnesses including experts were denied a chance to testify.

The defense documents, released to reporters by a public relations firm, say many of the charges were legally inadmissible and Tokmakjian's acts did not constitute crimes. For example, Tokmakjian was convicted of paying bribes but defense lawyer Ramon de la Cruz Ochoa said in one of the documents that "gifts, meals and courtesies are presented negatively and out of context" in the charges.

Tokmakjian was convicted by a Cuban court last month and sentenced on charges of bribery, damaging the Cuban economy, illicit economic activity, currency trafficking, fraud and tax evasion, and it ordered the seizure of assets valued at $100 million.

Sixteen others including two Canadian employees of his company, the Tokmakjian Group, were convicted and sentenced to terms ranging from 6 to 20 years in a case that has strained Cuba's relations with Canada, a major trading partner, and could deter foreigners from investing with the communist government.

Tokmakjian, 74 who was arrested three years ago, has denied wrongdoing.

Over 20 years, the privately-held Concord, Ontario-based Tokmakjian Group became one of most successful foreign companies doing business in Cuba, supplying vehicles, motors, parts and construction equipment.

The defense documents said that officials receiving gifts could not have directed contracts to Tokmakjian on their own. Contracts worth more than $1 million, for example, must receive approval from 13 separate levels of bureaucracy, the defense said.   Continued...

Canadian transport executive Cy Tokmakjian holds his grandson Christian in an undated family photo released to Reuters in Toronto, September 29, 2014.   REUTERS/Raffi Tokmakjian/Handout via Reuters