Thornhill automobile exec imprisoned in Cuba
Loving father and grandfather sentenced to 15 years on corruption-related charges
Seventy-four-year-old businessman Cy Tokmakjian, who is currently being held in a military hospital in Havana, Cuba, due to failing health, was delivered a 15-year sentence for corruption-related charges on Sept. 26.
Tokmakjian, one of several foreign business investors who got swept up in an anti-corruption campaign in Cuba, was taken into custody in 2011 and spent the next two years at La Condesa Prison in a cellblock with 50 hardened criminals and similarly accused businessmen, before any charges were laid. The company’s Cuban assets, worth an estimated $100 million, were also seized by Cuban authorities.
Stephen Purvis, of British investment fund Coral Capital Group Ltd., spent eight months in the same cellblock as Tokmakjian, where he too went through what he calls “a Kafkaesque process of arrest on trumped-up charges” — in his case, revelation of state secrets, and in Tokmakjian’s case, tax evasion, fraud, bribery and economic crimes against the state. According to Purvis, the campaign was meant to hide a purge initiated by Raúl Castro’s interior ministry, to remove all high-ranking officials close to the former president, Fidel Castro.
Conservative party member of Parliament, Peter Kent, whose riding includes the company’s head office, called the conviction a “gross miscarriage of justice” and marvelled at what he referred to as the “kangaroo court” demonstrated at the businessman’s trial in June.
“Our hope now is that Mr. Tokmakjian will be sent home to Canada one way or another to be with his family,” said Kent. “A far from a satisfying end to this gross miscarriage of justice, but in the interest of his well-being, that’s what the family and his company hope will happen now.”
Canadians Claudio Vetere and Marco Puche, both friends of the family and Tokmakjian managers, were also sentenced to 12- and eight-year sentences, respectively. “These are good, hard-working people,” said Tokmakjian’s son Raffi Tokmakjian. “We want to get them home.”
The Tokmakjian Group is reportedly seeking $150 million in damages and another $10 million in punitive damages in a suit filed in April against the Cuban government.
Tokmakjian’s Canadian lawyers announced a decision to appeal to Cuba’s Supreme Court Oct. 15, despite previous concerns that it would impede the possibility of his release to Canada to serve out the remainder of his sentence.
A far from satisfying end to this gross miscarriage of justice.”
Cy Tokmakjian (right) with his son Raffi and grandson Christian