HAVANA TIMES — A Cuban court has imposed 5 to 15 year prison sentences on 18 State company officials and employees in Havana for their involvement in the much-publicized theft of over eight million eggs, a crime that caused the country millions in losses.
On Friday, Granma, Cuba’s major official newspaper, reported that those convicted were employees of the Unidad Empresarial de Base Acopio y Distribucion de Huevos Habana (“Havana Base Egg Rationing and Distribution Company”) and the Empresa Provincial de Comercio (“Provincial Sales Company”) in the Cuban capital and were accused of embezzlement, misappropriation and the falsification of bank and commercial documents.
Initially, 19 employees were summoned to the preliminary hearing, but one of them was absolved due to lack of evidence.
The sentencing closes an investigation begun in October of 2012, after a considerable number of invoices reporting unrecognized delivery locations were detected. The accused were tried on October 6, 2014 at the Committal Hearing Chamber of the Havana Provincial Criminal Court, but it wasn’t until March 13 this year that the case was made public through a detailed article titled Los retorcidos caminos del descontrol (“The Twisted Paths of Neglect”)
Audit and Police Investigation
Following a special audit that revealed serious irregularities in the sale and distribution of eggs, a police investigation uncovered a series of illegal transactions for a value of 8,907,562 Cuban pesos, some US $ 370,000.
The District Attorney’s Office initially called for 8 to 20-year prison sentences and for the accused to answer for the damages they caused.
The investigation, conducted by the Criminal Investigations and Operations Division of the Ministry of the Interior, reported accounting errors, failure to comply with company obligations by managers, experts and drivers; failure to abide by the routes established for the sale of eggs; the falsification of invoices and, in the words of the article, the existence of a “criminal network, spurred on by the blatant absence of control mechanisms, the vulnerability of company operations and the total loss of ethical and moral values.”
The egg cartons were being sold in the black market at 35 to 40 Cuban pesos.
The article did not specify when the accused were convicted or whether they have the right to appeal their sentences, as is mentioned in reports on similar cases.
The report on the trafficking of eggs reaches us after egg production fell to 2.064 billion units last year, 3.2 million less than was produced in 2013, resulting in shortages and complaints by the population.