Canadian businessman goes on trial in Cuban corruption crackdown

Thu May 23, 2013 11:38am EDT
 
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By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - The trial of a Canadian businessman who has confessed to bribing Cuban officials began on Thursday, almost two years after his arrest in a sweeping government crackdown on corruption.

The closed trial of 53-year-old Sarkis Yacoubian, originally from Armenia and the owner of import firm Tri-Star Caribbean, was expected to last two days. An associate of Yacoubian, Lebanese citizen Krikor Bayassalian, is a co-defendant.

The two men were brought into the courthouse, once a large home in Havana's 10th of October neighborhood, out of sight of the press, which was not allowed in to cover the proceedings.

Canada's ambassador to Cuba, Matthew Levin, did not speak to reporters as he walked in the front gate.

The corruption trials of at least three other Canadian and British executives who were arrested shortly after Yacoubian was taken into custody in July 2011 are expected to follow.

The arrests were unprecedented for Cuba, where foreign businessmen suspected of corruption are usually deported, and are viewed as a measure of President Raul Castro's determination to clean up a vice he views as a threat to Cuba's socialist system.

They sent shockwaves through Cuba's small foreign business community where the companies involved were among the most visible players.

Cuba's state-run media, however, has not yet reported the Yacoubian trial, nor mentioned the arrests and crackdown on foreign trade.   Continued...

 
Men arrive at a court during the trial against Sarkis Yacoubian and Krikor Bayassalian in Havana May 23, 2013. The trial of Yacoubian, a Canadian businessman who has confessed to bribing Cuban officials, began on Thursday, almost two years after his arrest in a sweeping government crackdown on corruption. The closed trial of 53-year-old Yacoubian, originally from Armenia and the owner of import firm Tri-Star Caribbean, was expected to last two days. An associate of Yacoubian, Lebanese citizen Krikor Bayassalian, is a co-defendant. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa (CUBA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)