Cuba probes dealings of Canadian trading firm

HAVANA,  (Reuters) – Cuban authorities are  investigating the business dealings of Canadian firm Tri-Star  Caribbean, one of the best known trading companies on the  island, foreign business and diplomatic sources said this  week.

The cause of the investigation was not clear, but it  appeared to be the latest looking into kickbacks involving  Cuban imports, sources said.

Company President Sarkis Yacoubian was picked up in  mid-July for questioning, they said, and since then as many as  50 to 60 people, mainly company sales personnel, state  purchasers and functionaries, have been questioned and in some  cases imprisoned.

Cuban President Raul Castro has made fighting corruption a  top priority since taking over for his ailing brother Fidel in  2008, and in the past year a number of Cuban officials and  foreign businessmen have been charged  in graft cases.

Tri-Star Caribbean does business with a broad assortment of  ministries and state-run businesses — from tourism,  transportation and construction to the nickel and oil  industries, communications and public health.

The company has one of the largest foreign trading offices  in Havana and has sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of  transportation, construction and other equipment and machinery  to the communist-run country since 1996.

Yacoubian, an Armenian-born Canadian citizen, has always  gotten a tip of the hat from other foreign traders for his  deftness at navigating the turbulent and murky waters of Cuba’s  export-import businesses.

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