Corruption trial of Canadian trader ends in Cuba, with verdict soon

Fri May 24, 2013 9:49pm EDT
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By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - The trial of a Canadian businessman who bribed Cuban officials ended on Friday after two days of testimony, but there was no word on the outcome in a case closely watched by Havana's foreign business community.

Sarkis Yacoubian, originally from Armenia and the owner of import firm Tri-Star Caribbean, was expected to plead guilty and hope for leniency for his cooperation with investigators after his July 2011 arrest.

The five-judge panel was expected to announce its verdict within 10 days.

Yacoubian, 53, faced up to 12 years in prison on charges of bribery, tax evasion and damaging the country's economy. He has been in prison since his arrest.

His associate, Lebanese citizen Krikor Bayassalian, was a co-defendant at the trial.

At least three other Canadian and British executives with import businesses, all arrested after Yacoubian, are behind bars and expected to go on trial soon.

The cases are the result of a corruption crackdown launched by President Raul Castro shortly after he succeeded his ailing brother Fidel in 2008.

They have drawn the attention of those involved in foreign trade in Cuba because in the past foreign business people suspected of corruption were deported, not imprisoned.   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)