HAVANA TIMES — Canadian businessman Vahe Cy Tokmakjian, 74, president of the Tokmakjian Group, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Cuban court on charges of corruption, trafficking hard currencies and tax evasion conducted on the island.
Tokmakjian’s lawyers were informed of the sentence on Friday, announced a brief statement from the Ontario based company.
The information added that two other Canadian citizens and board members of the Tokmakjian Group in Cuba, entrepreneurs Claudio Franco and Marco Vinicio Vetere Puche Rodríguez, were sentenced to 12 and eight years in prison, respectively.
“The disappointment that takes place in Cuba exceeds all imagination,” reads the statement from the Tokmakjian Group, released Saturday. “The lack of due process does not begin to describe the travesty of justice there.”
After three months of waiting
The sentence becomes public three months after the trial held for Tokmakjian, Vetere, Puche and 14 senior Cuban officials and executives. The process took place in the People’s Provincial Tribunal of Havana between June 9-21, and the Cuban authorities promised then that the decision be known “in the coming days.”
The Cuban media have made no reference to the sentences and the fate of the Cuban defendants, including former deputy Minister of Sugar, Nelson Ricardo Labrada Fernandez, for whom the prosecution asked for 20 years in prison.
Tokmakjián remains arrested since September 2011, when State Security agents occupied and sealed the premises of his company on the fourth floor of the Miramar Trade Center, in Havana. Labrada was also arrested around the same time.
According to the official report issued on June 29, the trial of the 17 accused were performed based on the crimes of bribery, acts to the detriment of economic activity or recruitment, altered accounting records and extracting large sums of money from country and tax evasion.
The Cuban Attorney General accused Tokmakjian of using “fraudulent and corrupt mechanisms to obtain benefits in negotiations with Cuban entities, causing considerable losses to our economy; performing unauthorized operations of financial intermediation; illegally extracting large sums of money; altering accounting records and false affidavits in order to evade their tax obligations.”
The Canadian was also accused of giving monetary rewards to several workers who performed functions that were not part of their contracts when recruited by the government employment agency.
The prosecution also asked the court to order the defendants to pay more than $91 million dollars in damaged caused the Cuban entities and the Tax Administration. However, the Tokmakjian Group claims that Cuba seized about $100 million in company assets.
In April 2013, in the midst of investigating the case, the Cuban government officially canceled operations of the Tokmakjian Group after 25 years of business in the island.
Based in Ontario, Tokmakjian Group was the second largest foreign trade company in Cuba, after Sherritt International, with about US $80 million in sales of equipment for construction and mining. The firm also had exclusive rights to distribute Hyundai in the Cuban market and was associated with two other companies for the replacement engines for Soviet era transportation equipment.
After the closing its headquarters in Havana, Tokmakjian Group is suing the Cuban government for $200 million at the High Court of Ontario, Canada, and the International Court of Commerce in Paris.