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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Coral that foundered on the reef of corruption

Reuters reported yesterday that two top executives of a British investment fund in Cuba are to go on trial in Havana on Thursday 30 May.

The trial is part of a government crackdown on corruption involving foreign businessmen and  is the second trial of foreign executives in a week.

Amado Fakhre, a Lebanese-born British citizen and chief executive officer of Coral Capital Group Ltd, faces various bribery charges related  to the fund's import business. His Chief Operating Officer Stephen Purvis, who headed up various investment projects,  faces lesser charges, such as operating outside the bounds of the fund's license.

Fakhre, whose Havana office HQ is pictured above, has been jailed since the company's offices were raided and closed in October 2011. Purvis was arrested and imprisoned in March 2012.

Coral Capital was one of only a handful of small foreign investment funds in Cuba.

Inanother case, in September 2011 the authorities shut down Canada-based Tokmakjian Group, after doing the same in July to another Canadian trading firm, Tri-Star Caribbean.

The closed trial of Sarkis Yacoubian, originally from Armenia and the owner of Tri-Star Caribbean, was held last week. An associate of Yacoubian, Lebanese citizen Krikor Bayassalian, was a co-defendant.

They were charged with bribery, tax evasion and damaging the economy.

Dozens of Cuban officials and businessmen have reportedly been arrested, tried and sentenced in the anti-corruption sweep.

A number of other foreigners and Cubans who worked for the three foreign companies remain free but cannot leave the island because they are considered witnesses.

Coral Capital, registered in the British Virgin Islands in 1999, was best known in Cuba as the joint venture partner in Havana's Saratoga Hotel and another hotel complex on the resort key of Cayo Coco. It had plans to build golf courses and related real estate developments near Havana, for which it had begun raising equity capital.

The fund diversified into trade financing and importing heavy equipment and other merchandise .

The company represented various international brands in Cuba, among them Liebherr Earth Moving, Yamaha Motor Corporation and Peugeot Motorcycles.

Coral Capital had invested some $75 million in Cuba, with more than $1 billion of projects in the works.

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