Canadian held in Cuba should be sent back: MP
By Staff The Canadian Press
A Canadian businessman sentenced in Cuba to 15 years in prison on
corruption-related charges should be sent back home, said a Toronto-area
MP who called the conviction a “travesty of justice.”
Cy Tokmakjian, who owns of the Ontario-based automotive company
Tokmakjian Group, could be expelled from the Caribbean country or
transferred to a Canadian facility instead of serving out his sentence
there, Peter Kent said Sunday.
“It’s obvious an appeal is a waste of time given the Cuban justice
system,” Kent said.
But “it’s not over yet,” he stressed.
The company said its lawyers were notified Friday that Tokmakjian, 74,
was convicted and sentences on a variety of charges that Cuban officials
call part of a widespread campaign against graft.
He was held for more than two years before being tried in June.
Kent, whose Thornhill riding includes the company’s headquarters, said
the sentence is “outrageous,” but not entirely unexpected.
Tokmakjian’s family “hasn’t given up hope” but worries because he is in
poor health, said the MP, who has known them for years.
“We want to get him home as soon as possible,” he said.
Kent said the case is “a very strong reminder that international
investors should beware” when dealing with Cuba.
Foreign Affairs says consular services are being provided and officials
are in contact with authorities in Havana.
The company issued a statement earlier this year saying Tokmakjian did
nothing wrong and suggested he didn’t get a fair trial.
The company’s Cuban offices were raided in 2011 as Cuba launched an
anti-graft drive that has swept up foreign business executives from at
least five nations as well as government officials and dozens of Cuban
employees at key state-run companies.
Foreign business people have long considered payoffs ranging from a free
meal to cash deposits in overseas accounts to be an unavoidable cost of
doing business in Cuba. President Raul Castro has said that rooting out
rampant corruption is one of the country’s most important challenges.
More than 150 foreign business people and dozens of small South American
and European companies have been kicked out of the country under the
anti-graft drive. Several dozen defendants have ended up in jail,
including a few foreigners and high government officials accused of
influence-peddling and taking bribes.
Such cases, and questions about their fairness, have chilled many
current and potential investors in Cuba, which is trying to attract
foreign capital to jumpstart the stagnant economy.
Cuba’s judicial system is known for speedy proceedings behind closed
doors with little or no media access. Cuban officials have said little
about the Tokmakjian case beyond announcing last year that the
Tokmakjian Group’s operating license had been rescinded due to
Tokmakjian managers Claudio Vetere and Marco Puche got 12- and 8-year
sentences, respectively, company vice-president Lee Hacker told The
The company’s website lists its head office in Concord, Ont.
The website says it provides both transportation services and engine
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