Foreign executives arrested in Cuba in 2011 await charges

Tue Oct 9, 2012 5:06pm EDT
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By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - Executives of three foreign businesses shut in 2011 ostensibly for corrupt practices have been held by Cuban authorities for a year or more and still have not been charged with a crime, sources with knowledge of the cases said this week.

Their ongoing legal limbo has put a behind-the-scenes strain on Cuba's relations with their home countries - Canada and Britain - where the legal process protects suspects from lengthy incarceration without charges, western diplomats told Reuters.

Police closed the Havana offices of the British investment and trading firm Coral Capital Group Ltd last October and arrested chief executive Amado Fakhre, a Lebanese-born British citizen.

A month earlier authorities shut down one of the most important Western trading companies in Cuba, Canada-based Tokmakjian Group, after doing the same in July 2011 to another Canadian trading firm, Tri-Star Caribbean.

Cuban authorities say the cases, which are part of a larger crackdown on corruption on the communist island, are being handled within the letter of Cuban law.

The local legal process does call for defendants to be informed of why they were arrested and sets out time limits for charges to be filed, but they can be waved indefinitely in "exceptional circumstances."

Cy Tokmakjian, head of the Tokmakjian Group, and Sarkis Yacoubian, head of Tri-Star, were arrested and confined to comfortable safe houses when their businesses were closed, but earlier this year both were transferred to La Condesa, a prison for foreigners just outside Havana.

Coral Capital's Fakhre was recently transferred to a military hospital when he fell ill after months in prison.   Continued...