Canadian executive awaits verdict in corruption trial


Toronto Star

After a two-day trial behind closed doors in a Havana courtroom, Sarkis Yacoubian goes back to what he has been doing for almost two years — waiting in a Cuban prison.

The 53-year-old Canadian businessman who operated a trading company in Cuba is facing three counts of corruption-related charges that could lead to a 12-year sentence.

His trial Thursday and Friday before a panel of five judges was closed to the media and no official news has emerged about the proceedings. It could take up to two weeks for a verdict and a sentence to be announced.

The Cuban government has not even acknowledged that a trial has begun and the state media has been silent.

The Toronto Star reported earlier this week that the Canadian ambassador to Cuba, Matthew Levin, attended the trial — a sign of how seriously Ottawa takes the matter. The Department of Foreign Affairs would not comment on what the ambassador observed at the trial.

Yacoubian’s arrest in July 2011 sent shockwaves through the small foreign business community in Havana as the Canadian businessman soon found himself in the center of a widening storm over international corruption allegations.

In exclusive phone interviews from prison, Yacoubian told the Star that he cooperated with Cuban authorities and blew the whistle on what he called the “black forces” of foreign businesses engaged in corruption.

In the wake of Yacoubian’s arrest, business executives from at least five nations were detained and more than a dozen government officials and state company executives were imprisoned for graft.

For his trial, Yacoubian was whisked in and out of the Criminal Court of the Peoples’ Tribunal for Havana Province and was expected to return to La Condesa prison on the outskirts of the city.

In Toronto, Krikor Yacoubian said he hoped his brother’s cooperation with Cuban authorities will help him.

“This never would have happened without him, why should he be the fall guy?” he told the Star. “My hope is that he is going to be free very soon.”

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