Although Coral is not the first company of its kind to be targeted by the government’s anti-corruption campaign, as Reuters reports the charges against Coral and its executive are still not clear:
Police closed the Havana offices of the Coral Capital Group Ltd last week and arrested chief executive Amado Fakhre, a Lebanese-born British citizen, sources close to the company said.
The offices were sealed and cordoned off with police crime scene tape during the weekend.
A month ago, authorities shut down one of the most important Western trading companies in Cuba, Canada-based Tokmakjian Group, after doing the same in July to another Canadian trading firm, Tri-Star Caribbean.
A vice minister for sugar, Nelson Labrada, was [also] arrested in late September for signing off on purchases from the Canadian companies, a source close to his family said.
Just as in the Canadian cases, the precise allegations against Coral Capital are not known and have not been reported in Cuba’s state-run media but they are evidence that the government’s corruption sweep is widening.
The company represents various international brands in Cuba, among them Liebherr Earth Moving, Yamaha Motor Corporation and Peugeot Motorcycles, according to its Internet site. The site says Coral Capital has invested some $75 million (48 million pounds) in Cuba, with more than $1 billion of projects in the works.
Cuba is a country where corruption is small-scale but widespread corruption is the rule, and fighting corruption has been a top priority for President Raul Castro (since taking over from his brother, Fidel, in 2008). The anti-corruption campaign has targeted high-level graft in food processing, civil aviation, cigar and nickel industries. Investigation into the shipping and the communications sector are also underway.
In the mid- to long-term, the campaign is probably good for business and development in Cuba. As the country struggles to reinvent itself and its economy, it has attracted a lot of interest and attention from foreign investors. If the government is able to maintain its measures against corruption, it might actually be able to modernize the country without completely selling out its culture and unique take on socialism.
But I guess we’ll see…