Canadian businessman goes on trial in Cuba for corruption

Thu May 23, 2013 9:31pm EDT
 
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By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - A Cuban court on Thursday wrapped up the first day of testimony in the graft trial of a Canadian businessman whose prosecution is part of a corruption crackdown that has shaken the country's foreign business community.

The trial of Sarkis Yacoubian, originally from Armenia and the owner of import firm Tri-Star Caribbean, was expected to end on Friday. An associate of Yacoubian, Lebanese citizen Krikor Bayassalian, is a co-defendant.

Canada's ambassador to Cuba, Matthew Levin, attended the trial but did not speak to reporters. Journalists were not allowed in the courtroom to cover the proceedings.

The corruption trials of at least three other Canadian and British executives, all of them 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.

They are seen as a measure of President Raul Castro's determination to end a practice he views as a threat to Cuba's socialist system.

They sent shockwaves through the country's small foreign business sector 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)