UPDATE 1-Cuba asked for $55 mln, assets to release Canadian CEO -company

lunes 29 de septiembre de 2014 18:42 GYT

(Adds details from Tokmakjian Group official on allegations)

By Allison Martell and Daniel Trotta

TORONTO/HAVANA, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Cuba offered to free jailed Canadian executive Cy Tokmakjian in return for $55 million and company assets, his company said on Monday, but the deal fell through because the firm didn't have the money and the businessman wanted to clear his name.

Tokmakjian, 74, founder and chief executive of transportation firm Tokmakjian Group, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Friday after being convicted of bribery and other economic charges in a case that lawyers and diplomats called a chilling development for potential foreign investors.

After Tokmakjian was detained in 2011, company lawyers met with Cuban officials about the case, said Lee Hacker, the Tokmakjian Group's vice-president for finance.

"They were ... told 'We're taking all your assets and in addition you're going to have to send another $55 million down before Cy will be released,'" Hacker said.

It was the first time the company had revealed the Cuban demand, which could not be immediately confirmed with authorities in Havana. Tokmakjian's case has been shrouded in secrecy - he was held for two and a half years before being charged.

Hacker said he was told by the company's lawyers that there was no basis for the $55 million figure. "It was just a number that was thrown out," he told Reuters.

Other attempts at negotiation failed partly because Tokmakjian does not want to admit to crimes he has not committed, his son Raffi said.   Continuación...