Cy Tokmakjian, Canadian businessman, handed 15-year sentence in Cuba

A Canadian automobile executive has been sentenced to 15 years in Cuban prison on corruption-related charges that officials here call part of a broad campaign against graft, his company said Saturday.

Company claims charges concocted by Cuban government to seize $100M in assets

Cy Tokmakjian, president of Ontario-based Tokmakjian Group, was sentenced to a 15-year prison term by a Cuban court. (Family photo/CBC)

A Canadian company says its president has been sentenced in Cuba to 15 years in prison on corruption-related charges that Cuban officials call part of a widespread campaign against graft.

The Ontario-based automotive company Tokmakjian Group says its lawyers were notified Friday that Cy Tokmakjian was convicted and sentenced on a variety of charges.

Company vice-president Lee Hacker tells The Associated Press that firm managers Claudio Vetere and Marco Puche got shorter sentences.

Cuban officials have provided few details about the case.

But dozens of Cuban executives and government officials and a series of foreigners have been swept up in what is described as an attack on a culture of payoffs by foreigners.

The arrests sent a chill through international business people investing in Cuba.

The company's website lists its head office in Concord, Ont., and says it provides both transportation services and engine repairs.

Most defence witnesses rejected at trial

A statement released by the company in July defended Tokmakjian against the accusations, saying they were "legitimate commercial transactions."

It also said the trial, which ended June 21, was unfairly stacked against him.

The statement said Tokmakjian was held without charge for two years while the results of the investigation were kept secret, and then given just two months to present a defence.

It also said the Cuban court rejected 14 of 18 proposed defence witnesses, including international tax experts.

Cuba's Communist Party newspaper Granma has said Tokmakjian was accused of corruption to obtain benefits in contract negotiations, unauthorized financial transactions, illegally taking large amounts of money out of the country, falsifying documents to avoid taxes and payroll irregularities.