Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chilean businessman, ex-minister get long-term sentences

Max Marambio (l) and Castro in the "friendship" times.

Ending a one-year trial, a provincial court in Havana sentenced a former food industry minister and a Chilean investor to long prison terms.

A report in Granma said ex Food Industry Minister Alejandro Francisco Roca Iglesias must serve 15 years, after the court convicted him in March of “repeated bribery” and “acts to harm economic activity,” while Max Marambio, who was sentenced in absence, must serve 20 years on convictions of bribery, fraud and falsification.

In both cases, the court followed the guidance of prosecutors.

Marambio, via his Twitter account from Chile, denounced the sentencing as “pure political persecution” and challenged the Cuban government to ask a Chilean court for his extradition. “They never sent anything,” he wrote.

He was represented by a court-appointed defender. The political insider-turned-businessman and long-time resident of Cuba has not returned to the island since fall 2009. He filed legal proceedings against Cuba before the court of arbitration of the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in October 2010.

The Havana court’s ruling can be appealed before the Superior Court within 10 days.

Neither did the Granma article provide any details of the allegations, nor has there been any other official information as to what the pair’s alleged crimes actually consisted of.

“The charges of the prosecution were duly proven, and [the court] took into account that the crimes committed are of particular seriousness, requiring an energetic response for punishment that corresponds to the many damages to the national economy caused by the accused, to the detriment of the ethical behavior of various officials and subordinated workers,” Granma said, without explaining details.

Marambio claims part of the accusations stem from his paying generous benefits to Cuban employees. According to Chilean press reports, Roca is accused of making considerable bank deposits abroad from illicit commissions. A son of Roca’s works for Marambio in Chile.

The sentencing puts an end to a two-year investigation and trial that prompted broad media coverage in Chile. It comes on the heels of several cases of destitution and investigation against state company executives, most recently the imprisonment of a long-term executive at cigar company Habanos S.A. on corruption charges.

Roca Iglesias.
Roca Iglesias, 75, was minister of food industries from 1976 to March 2009. He lost his minister job the same time as Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque and Vice President Carlos Lage.

Marambio, 63, made it into Cuba’s inner circles of power under Fidel Castro. The former student leader in Chile and body guard of President Salvador Allende fled to Cuba after the 1973 coup, where he became a member of Cuba’s special forces, and founding chief executive of the CIMEX holding — today Cuba’s largest business conglomerate. In the 1990s, he used his close relationship with the Cuban government to build a thriving business, the Havana-based Alimentos Río Zaza joint venture. Early last year, the government shut down Río Zaza, which produced and sold processed food products in Cuba to the tune of $100 million a year, and took back Marambio’s house in Havana.

As of October, two Río Zaza executives were imprisoned in relation to the investigation, according to Marambio; the government hasn’t released any information about related cases.

Source: Cuba Standard

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