Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Government publishes charges against Chilean businessman

In an unusual step, the Interior Ministry published in the Gaceta Oficial on Monday a citation and charges against Chilean businessman Max Marambio.

The citation gives him until July 29 to appear before a Cuban investigator; otherwise Cuba will issue an arrest warrant. Marambio, 63, lives in Santiago de Chile. He has not been to Cuba since last fall. The owner of several companies in Cuba is accused of bribery, damaging acts to economic activity or contracting, embezzlement, falsification of bank and commerce documents, and fraud.

The Cuban case against Marambio made headlines in Chile earlier this year. Amid heightened rhetoric against corruption, Cuban authorities began investigating Marambio, who had fostered intimate ties to the Cuban government. According to a terse note published by Granma April 15, Cuban prosecutors were investigating “irregularities and violations of existing laws” at Alimentos Río Zaza S.A., a company owned by Marambio.

One witness was found dead April 6 in his Havana apartment. Roberto Baudrand, 59, the top Chilean manager in Cuba for Marambio’s Alimentos Río Zaza S.A., had been under orders not to leave the island and was twice cited to report to police to testify as a witness. According to the Cuban autopsy, Baudrand’s death was caused by a mix of pharmaceuticals and alcohol. At least two Cuban employees of Marambio’s companies had been detained earlier. In December, the accountant of ING holding and the Cuban representative in the Río Zaza food and agricultural joint venture were arrested in Havana. ING is a 50-percent shareholder in Río Zaza; the Cuban state controls the other half. ING also holds a 50-percent share of the Sol y Son travel agency.

The investigation centers on the unauthorized use of government aircraft for business, reported Chile’s Radio Bío-Bío, without citing sources. On March 8, Raúl Castro replaced Gen. Rogelio Acevedo González as head of the Instituto de Aeronáutica Civil de Cuba, the government agency that regulates civil aviation and operates the country’s airports and state airlines. Acevedo had been in charge of the agency since 1989; his wife Ofelia Liptak is commercial director of Río Zaza and an ING executive. In April, Chile’s Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno told reporters his government knew about the Cuban investigation against Marambio’s companies, but that he wasn’t aware of any specific charges.

Max Marambio, a student leader in Chile in the 1960s, was trained by Cuba to be President Salvador Allende’s personal guard. Later, from 1978 to 1983, he was an executive at Corporación CIMEX, today Cuba’s largest state company. In this position, Marambio helped Cuba circumvent the U.S. embargo with international business activities he directed. He also was on special missions abroad for Cuba’s intelligence during the 1970s.

In 1985, Marambio went into business for himself, founding ING. As recently as February 2009, Cuban authorities during a visit of former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet presented ING subsidiary Río Zaza as an exemplary joint venture. But Marambio’s relations with Cuba abruptly cooled last year. He complained to Cuban officials last fall about the freezing of $23 million in Cuban bank accounts. Cash flow problems, including a $7.5 million debt to supplier TetraPak, forced Marambio in February to temporarily halt production at two Río Zaza plants in Cuba, idling 500 employees.

From: Cuba Standard 

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