The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Cuba frees jailed Canadian businessman after serving 2 1/2 years of 9-year sentence

  • Print

TORONTO - A Canadian businessman who served 2 1/2 years of a nine-year prison sentence in Cuba for corruption has abruptly returned to Canada.

Sarkis Yacoubian, president of Tri-Star Caribbean import company, said Saturday that he's extremely happy and excited to be home in Toronto. However, he says he is still adjusting after he was given only 24 to 48 hours' notice before his release.

Yacoubian was arrested in 2011 by Cuban authorities but only formally charged in April 2013 with bribery, tax evasion and "activities damaging to the economy." He said that because he was expelled from Cuba, he is not subject to transfer conditions that would require him to serve the rest of his sentence in Canada.

"I can't discuss on what grounds I was expelled," said the 53-year-old Yacoubian. "When somebody goes to jail, most of them claim that they were innocent. It's not only the facts that support this for me, but official recognition that supports this," he said.

"I'm still confused. They released me, 24-48 hours' notice, I still don't know exactly how this whole thing happened. I'm trying to figure out what happened, who had interest behind it, which were the organizations or companies that did what they did to me. So it's just 48 hours. The decision, nobody knew that. They just said we're going to let you out," Yacoubian told The Associated Press from his mother's home in Toronto.

He said that he is willing to share his story but wants to consult with his lawyers, who he said are currently on vacation, before he provides further details about what he calls a "very interesting, exciting story."

"I want to be properly vindicated on the highest level once the facts are there. I've already been officially vindicated, but I just can't tell you how, but it'll come out in the next two weeks," he said.

Yacoubian, who is Armenian, was born in Lebanon, where he studied international relations before coming to Montreal to earn his MBA at McGill University. He then ventured to Cuba, where he spent about 20 years. There, he partnered with the Cuban government on multiple ventures.

"(I developed) probably the third or fourth largest company (in Cuba). I started with $3,000 and that's where I got millions of dollars of credit from factories, and all my money was confiscated, so there's a story behind the story," he said.

Two months after Yacoubian's arrest, authorities raided another Canadian-run company, the Tokmakjian Group, one of the largest foreign operations in Cuba. Cy Tokmaakjian, 73, was arrested September 2011. He remains in Cuba's La Condesa prison with no charges filed.

Peter Kent, Tokmakjian's Member of Parliament, told The Toronto Star that Yacoubian's release had been expected, but that the news that he was back in Canada came as a relief.

Kent said that his greater concern was for Tokmakjian, who has spent two years imprisoned and in frail health. Kent said that Canadian government representatives "have on a number of occasions asked the Cuban authorities to either take him to court, lay charges or release him. And that continues to be our position . . . and that hasn't happened."

President Raul Castro has said that rooting out rampant corruption is one of the country's most important challenges.

Dozens of Cuban government officials and state company executives have been imprisoned for graft, while more than 150 foreign businesspeople and scores of small foreign companies have been kicked out of the country.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

RMTC preview of Good People

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Young goslings are growing up quickly near Cresent Lake in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba- See Bryksa 30 Day goose project- Day 11- May 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • JJOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-Postcard  Day-Horror frost and fog created a most beautiful setting at Assiniboine Park Thursday morning in WInnipeg- Enviroent Canada says the fog will lifet this morning and will see a high of -7C-  JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Feb 18, 2010

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Now that the snow is mostly gone, what are your plans?

View Results

Ads by Google