Skip to comments.Cuba Backs Canadian Convicted Over U.S. Embargo
Posted on 04/06/2002 9:21:13 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
HAVANA (Reuters) - President Fidel Castro's government expressed solidarity on Saturday during a huge anti-U.S. rally with a Canadian convicted in the United States of violating Washington's trade embargo by selling water-purification chemicals to Cuba.
Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, addressing 140,000 Cubans including Castro and other senior members of the ruling Communist Party on the outskirts of Havana, ridiculed the guilty verdict by a jury in federal court in Philadelphia on Wednesday against businessman James Sabzali, 42.
"They have found him guilty in the United States, put him on trial, for selling Cuba resins to purify the water which goes to our schools and homes, and now he could face a sentence of up to 205 years in prison," Perez said in a speech.
"I don't know what sort of dangerous or strategic material this is. I don't know if you you can maybe make a nuclear missile from it," Perez added sarcastically.
In a case likely to widen the dispute between Washington and Ottawa over ties with Cuba -- Canada opposes the embargo and is one of Havana's major trade partners -- Sabzali was convicted on 20 counts of violating the U.S. Trading With the Enemy Act and one count of conspiracy.
Sabzali, 42, a Canadian citizen who lives outside Philadelphia and works for the Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania-based chemical company Bro-Tech Corp., was described by U.S. authorities as the only foreign national ever prosecuted for alleged violation of the 1917 act.
Two of his fellow business executives, both U.S. citizens, also were convicted after a two-week trial over the alleged sale of $2.1 million of water-purification chemicals to Cuba. A 77-count indictment charged Bro-Tech and its executives with arranging the sales through intermediaries in Canada and Mexico between 1992 and 2000.
"This morning we declare that the Cuban people and government express their support and solidarity with Mr. Sabzali, his family and friends," Perez added during the rally.
"We support his right to trade with Cuba without being condemned by another country's laws, even if that country is the most powerful on the planet."
A PUBLIC OUTCRY IN CANADA
The case has caused a public outcry in Canada, where political leaders accuse the United States of trying to undermine Canadian sovereignty.
Perez, in a litany of accusations against the U.S. government, also complained that Washington recently had denied entry visas to Cuban Finance Minister Manuel Millares and members of the state food-importing company Alimport.
"They fear the voice of Cuba reaching the United States," Perez said.
Calling for an end to the decades-old trade embargo and prohibition of American tourism to Cuba, Perez announced that some 120,000 Cuban Americans and 80,000 Americans -- many of the latter traveling illegally via third countries -- visited the Caribbean island last year.
That would make the United States one of the top sources of tourism for Cuba. Tourism has been the linchpin of Cuba's fragile economy since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Perez and other speakers also continued a campaign of protest against American diplomats working in Havana for an alleged stepping up of "subversive" activities including the distribution of hundreds of radios to Cubans.
Student leader Hassan Perez, a favorite of Castro, told the rally that Cubans did not need the radios, which allegedly were pre-programd to listen to the Washington-funded anti-Castro station Radio Marti, because they were already "tuned in" to Castro and their 19th century independence hero Jose Marti.
"Our people's wavelength is that of Marti, of Marxism-Leninism, of our commander-in-chief (Castro)," he said.
Cuba holds such open-air, pro-government rallies every Saturday at different points around the island as part of a campaign that began with the quest two years ago to bring home young shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez from Florida.
Yet we are opposed to the International Criminal Court because we fear politically motivated prosecutions?
pardon him and deport him, and lets try to preserve what little credibility the united states has left in the world
Trial opens for Canadian accused of trade with Cuba--[Full text] PHILADELPHIA - (EFE) -- Jury selection began Monday in Philadelphia in the trial of James Sabzali, a Canadian businessman accused by the U.S. Justice Department of violating the Trading with the Enemy Act by doing business with Cuba.
Sabzali and his Canadian partners face a possible sentence of life in prison and a fine of $2 million, in a case that marks the first trial of a Canadian for conducting trade relations with Cuba while a Canadian resident.
According to prosecutors, between 1991 and 1995, Sabzali, who headed a company based in Hamilton, Ontario, made 20 trips to Cuba to sell products made by the U.S. company Purolite. On those trips, Sabzali sold $2 million in chemical resin used to purify water in factories and hospitals.
Sabzali was later hired by Purolite and promoted to an administrative position at its main offices in Philadelphia.
In October 2000, after a five-year investigation, the Justice Department filed 76 charges against Sabzali and three other Purolite executives.
Thirty-four of the charges are for trade transactions conducted while Sabzali was living in Canada.
Sabzali's defense is based precisely on the fact that when he was traveling and carrying out trade transactions with Cuba, he was a resident of Canada, where complying with the Trading with the Enemy Act is strictly prohibited. [End]
Was this man a stakeholder in Purolite, or simply an employee?
I say deport him, bar him entry to the US for life, and apply the law to where it should be applied: any and all owners of Purolite.
Considering the state of the world, now is NOT the time to drive a wedge between neighbours and allies. Issues like this, and softwood lumber, might please US domestic anti-Cuba proponents and the lumber lobby, but could adversely affect co-operation in the war on terrorism.
I would beg to differ. First of all, clean water and classified technology are apples and oranges. This is about trade, not espionage.
Secondly, the US policy with respect to dealing with totalitarian regimes is one of duplicity. The US favours some communist countries while considering others "enemy states." IMHO, it diminishes US credibility further when they prosecute foreign nationals for alleged trade related crimes that have been comitted outside of the USA.
If there was proof that any his involvement in any of these transactions occured while he was on US soil, then surely the US would have every right to prosecute. Whether or not this man held equity in the company (a US asset) at the time of the transactions is key.
However, is it possible that he did all this at the behest of his employers, who had been told by their lawyers that this was a legal way around the trading with the enemy laws?
The consquesnces should rest on those who called the shots and disregarded their nation's laws in the name of profit. Whether or not this man falls into that category, the article doesn't say. I haven't been following the case otherwise.
Also, consquesnces should read consequences.
And Badfreeper should go to bed. G'night.
You're the one posting the articles, so I assume you've been following the case. Is there more information available?
One of the articles stated that his defence was based on his being a resident of Canada at the time of the transactions. I hope you noticed that I didn't have any objection to his prosecution if he did any of the business on US soil or owned part of the company, no matter where his official place of residence was at the time.
Sovereignty and foreign affairs can be highly technical, sticky, nit-picky, whatever you want to call it. Or however you want to spell it. That's in case I misspelled any more words. :)
Now I'm really going to bed.
I don't have anymore information. But don't let that stop you.
Philadelphia James Sabzali, who calls himself Jim, spent Thursday in his comfortable suburban Philadelphia home with an electronic bracelet around his ankle, something his wife finds particularly hateful.
"It's so dehumanizing. You're on a leash. Big Brother really is watching," Sharon Sabzali said in an interview.
Mr. Sabzali, 42, is trying to come to terms with the realization that he may be going to jail for something he thought was perfectly legal: selling water-purification chemicals to Cuba. As a Canadian working in Canada, he believed he was not subject to the U.S. embargo on trade with the Communist island.
A Philadelphia jury on Wednesday convicted Mr. Sabzali and two senior executives of Bro-Tech Corp. of trading with the enemy and conspiracy, making Mr. Sabzali the first Canadian to be convicted under the laws enforcing the U.S. government's 42-year-old embargo against Cuba.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 28. The prosecution is recommending a jail term of at least three years. Meanwhile, Mr. Sabzali is restricted to the Philadelphia area, the ankle bracelet allowing police to track his movements.
"It's just so difficult to believe this could be happening," he said. "The whole situation is beyond explanation."
While a U.S. jury has pronounced Mr. Sabzali and Bro-Tech guilty, the implications of that decision for Canadian companies that trade with Cuba and have ties to the United States remain unclear. Canadian officials puzzled Thursday over the verdicts of guilty and not guilty the jury delivered on the 77 charges brought before them.
Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said government lawyers are still examining the outcome of the case. "He's a Canadian citizen, I understand, and a resident of the United States, so clearly the United States courts have jurisdiction," Mr. Graham said. "But apart from that I cannot comment until I've been briefed."
In Ottawa, a Foreign Affairs Department spokeswoman said the government has been in contact with Mr. Sabzali "and will continue to monitor developments closely."
"The situation is complex because he resides in the U.S., and because he was indicted for acts committed in the U.S. as well as Canada," Marie-Christine Lilkoff added.
What is clear is that a Canadian businessman who was so good at his job that he got promoted to the head office in the United States is now a convicted felon, much to his bewilderment.
"It's just overwhelming," he said, his voice shaking.
Mr. Sabzali was born in Trinidad and immigrated to Canada as a toddler with his parents, who were teachers. He grew up in the industrial Ontario town of St. Catharines, and met his wife when they were both students at Hamilton's McMaster University, where he studied for a degree in science.
In 1980 he had his first, fleeting moment in the public spotlight when he ran for the Rhinoceros Party in the federal election. "Chemistry is relatively dry," he observed, so to lighten life, he did gigs as a stand-up comic. "It was simply a neat experience, to go to these meetings and tell jokes."
After graduation, the married couple moved to Sarnia, where Mr. Sabzali got his feet wet in the chemical-sales business. They then moved back to the Hamilton area, and in 1990 he signed a freelance contract to represent Bro-Tech through its Canadian subsidiary, Purolite Canada.
He found a ready market in Cuba for the company's ion-exchange resins, which filter and purify liquids (mostly water, but it works for everything from blood to sugar). He estimates he visited Cuba about two dozen times, forming an attachment with a "hard-working, well-educated, sincere" people.
In 1995, Bro-Tech offered him the job of marketing director for the firm, and in 1996 the Sabzalis and their two young children moved to a pleasant neighbourhood outside Philadelphia. Today they live in a spacious two-storey, grey-stoned home in the affluent Winwood suburb.
Almost as soon as they arrived, Mr. Sabzali heard that U.S. Customs officials were asking about the shipments to Cuba. He said he was not concerned because, even if there was a problem, "I figured it wasn't going to affect me. I'm a Canadian."
But when Mr. Sabzali moved to the United States, "he clearly subjected himself to U.S. jurisdiction," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Poluka said Thursday in an interview.
In 2000, Mr. Sabzali and the company's senior executives were charged, but it took until last month for the case to go to trial. The jury deliberated 17 hours before reaching its verdict.
Thursday, the Sabzali family tried to go about their normal business. James Jr., who celebrated his 13th birthday on Wednesday, and 14-year-old Sarah went to school; Mr. Sabzali stayed at home. He and and his wife are trying to come to grips with the reality that he could soon be gone from the family for years.
"We can't plan anything at this point," Mrs. Sabzali said. "We have no idea where to begin."
Mrs. Sabzali had some advice, though, for Canadian executives who trade with Cuba and are thinking of moving to the United States: "Don't. It's just not worth it."
Meanwhile, one of Mr. Sabzali's business partners in Canada worries that he could be the next target for U.S. prosecution for trading with Cuba.
Claude Gauthier, an Ontario resident and long-time friend of Mr. Sabzali, said in an interview that although charges have not been laid against him, he remains what is, in the U.S. justice system, called an unindicted co-conspirator. Part of the evidence in the Philadelphia trial was that Mr. Sabzali approved Mr. Gauthier's travel expenses to Cuba from Canada.
"It's more politics than anything, it's unbelievable," Mr. Gauthier said Thursday. Canada has cautioned the U.S. government against laying charges. Still, officials in Ottawa, Mr. Gauthier's lawyers and his wife all advise him against travelling south of the border.
With a report from Colin Freeze
Copyright © 2002 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
I guess his first mistake was moving to the US.
His second was to agree to be tried with the two Americans. The broad scope of the trial probably clouded the issue of nationality. He might have had a better chance of being acquitted had he gone it alone.
I wonder, do you think his sentence will be different from that of the other individuals involved?
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