‘A Series of Razors Waiting to Cut You’: The High Cost of Doing Business in Cuba 2

The Hotel Inglaterra in Havana, one of the hotels in which Starwood is investing. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Hotel Inglaterra in Havana, one of the hotels in which Starwood is investing. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Justin Rohrlich, Vice News

March 25, 2016 | 11:50 am

Sarkis Yacoubian swore he was just a businessman, but the state security agents holding him in a Havana interrogation room called him a spy.

It was July 2011, and Yacoubian, then 51, had been working in Cuba for nearly two decades. An Armenian-Canadian born in Beirut, he owned a trading company called Tri-Star Caribbean, which imported emergency vehicles, mining equipment, and auto parts for Cuba’s state-run industries.

About eight months before his arrest, Yacoubian says, a regime official visited Tri-Star’s Havana offices a handful of times — “Let’s call him ‘the Colonel,'” says Yacoubian, who claims not to recall the man’s name. The Colonel said that Cuba wanted to buy a fleet of BMWs, and asked Yacoubian to arrange it. The government’s wish list: sixteen 5-series sedans for the rental market and diplomatic use, and an armored X5 SUV for Cuban president Raul Castro’s personal motorcade. Yacoubian, knowing the contract could lead to many more, agreed to deliver the cars to Tecnotex, a state-owned conglomerate under the purview of the military run by Castro’s son-in-law, Colonel Luis Alberto Rodriguez.

The problems, however, started almost immediately. The government had previously been working with Eric Soulavy, a BMW dealer based in Venezuela who had run into financing problems. Yacoubian says a BMW rep got in touch with him and said that he needed to buy out Soulavy’s contract with BMW, which still had one year remaining. (A spokeswoman for the auto company said it does not comment “on the behavior of third parties as a matter of principle.”)

Yacoubian says he was at that point contractually obligated to deliver the vehicles to the Cubans, so with his “back to the wall,” he began negotiating with Soulavy. Yacoubian says they agreed to $800,000, with an initial transfer of $100,000. Soulavy, who is now a real-estate developer in Key Biscayne, Florida, says he doesn’t recall the exact amount he received from Yacoubian, but remembers charging him “something for the tools and parts we had invested in that business.”

Yacoubian says the buyers at Tecnotex were also asking him to take a $1,000 loss on each car, but “you don’t tell Raul Castro no.” Still, Yacoubian wasn’t doing the deal out of fear — he estimated the foothold the deal was gaining him could one day be worth up to $250 million.

Instead, he was accused of plotting to kill Castro.

Feature continues here: “A Series of Razors”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unauthorized Biography of Cuban Spy-Diplomat Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz 3

Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz

Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz  (Photo courtesy of ProgressoWeekly.US)

March 2009 – Present: Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment (MINCEX) (cover assignment)

Dates not recorded: Central Committee member and Deputy to the National Assembly. Licenciado en Economía.

2005: Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations (cover assignment)

2002 to 2005: Ambassador to Belgium, the European Union and Luxembourg (cover assignment)

1998 – 2002: Deputy Minister — Ministry of Foreign Investment and Economic Cooperation (cover assignment)

1997-1998: Director, European and North American Division — Ministry of Foreign Investment and Economic Cooperation (cover assignment)

1992-1997: Economic Counselor in charge of economic and trade affairs at the Cuban Embassy in Brazil (cover assignment)

1982 – 1992: Specialist on Cooperation in the Division of Economic International Institutions of the State Committee for Economic Cooperation in Havana (cover assignment)

1981: Project Manager with the ECIMETAL Enterprise (cover assignment)

@1981 – Present day: Entered Cuba’s primary foreign intelligence service, the Directorate General of Intelligence (DGI) as an officer in the Q-2 Department, which conducted operations against Cuban exiles. Following a 1989 restructuring, the DGI was renamed the Directorate of Intelligence (DI).

1980: Graduated from the University of Havana with a degree in Economics

Born in Havana, Cuba, on 10/14/56, Malmierca Díaz is married to Grisell Guadalupe Castano-Rey and has two children. His languages include Spanish, English, French & Portuguese.

Editor’s Note: A “cover assignment” is the purported occupation or purpose of an intelligence officer or agent and is intended to explain one’s duties or presence in an area.

The Stupidly Simple Spy Messages No Computer Could Decode 1

Numbers station_The Daily BeastEvery day, hour after hour, the world’s spies send top secret information you can easily listen in on.

By Shan Harris, The Daily Beast

When I was 10 years old, I found a shortwave radio in a crumbling old leather trunk where we kept family photos and other memorabilia. As I spun the dial, tinny, modulating noises, like the song of an electronic slide whistle, emanated from the radio’s small speaker. Staticky cracks and pops competed for airtime. The sounds swished and swirled, unintelligible and unremarkable. But then, emerging through the clamor, was a voice.

I might have run right over it with the dial, but the voice’s rhythmic, steady pacing caught me up short. It wasn’t a deejay. Nor a commercial. And he wasn’t singing. He was just speaking. The same line, over and over again.

“7…6…7…4…3.” Pause. “7…6…7…4…3.”

I don’t remember if those were the exact numbers. But they were numbers. A repeated sequence which had no obvious meaning, and was entirely devoid of context. To find him here, amidst the screeches and howls of the shortwave frequencies, was like coming upon a man standing in the middle of a forest, talking out loud to no one.

How long had he been here? Who was he talking to? He had that officious tone of the recorded telephone operators who chastised you for dialing a wrong number. “Please hang up, check the number, and dial again.” And the same distracting static I’d heard in those messages filled the background. I wasn’t sure if he was speaking live, or if he’d been recorded and set loose to play into the air.

But there was an urgency to his tone. And a purpose. As if he were talking to me. Imploring. Listen. Hear me now. 7…6…7…4…3. Did you get that? 7…6…7…4…3.

I was simultaneously terrified and captivated.

I never touched the radio again. My curiosity was suppressed by a feeling of dread that I had heard something not meant for me. But I never stopped thinking about it. The voice became a character I passed around with friends during late-night ghost stories. The Bell Witch. The Killer in the Back Seat. The Numbers Man.

Article continues here: Numbers Stations

 

Will Spy Wars Between Cuba and the U.S. End with Restored Relations? 3

spy_vs_spyHIGHLIGHTS

Since Fidel Castro seized power in January 1959, and over the next five decades, Havana built one of the world’s most active intelligence services

Some of the biggest crises in U.S.-Cuba relations can be traced to the involvement of Cuban spies and agents

Cuban espionage against the United States intensified in the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan stepped up rhetoric against Cuba at the height of the Cold War

By Alfonso Chardy, Miami Herald    achardy@elnuevoherald.com

Though the United States has restored relations with Cuba, and President Barack Obama is planning to visit the island later this month, it’s unclear if the two countries have declared a truce in the spy wars they have waged for more than 50 years.

Lawmakers in Congress have warned the Obama administration that allowing Cuba to operate an embassy in Washington and consulates throughout the country will only make it easier for Havana to deploy spies and agents in the United States.

“We are all too familiar with the Castro regime’s efforts to utilize their diplomats as intelligence agents tasked with the goal of committing espionage against the host countries,’’ according to a letter sent in 2015 to the U.S. Department of State by five Cuban-American lawmakers including Miami Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, as well as presidential candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and New Jersey Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J.

Since Fidel Castro seized power in January 1959, and over the next five decades, Havana built one of the world’s most active intelligence services — one that dispatched spies and agents to penetrate the highest levels of the American government and some of the leading Cuban exile organizations.

In fact, some of the biggest crises in U.S.-Cuba relations can be traced to the involvement of Cuban spies and agents — from the downing of two Brothers to the Rescue planes to the theft of U.S. military secrets at the Defense Intelligence Agency and the spying of U.S. military facilities in South Florida and infiltration of leading Cuban exile organizations in Miami by members of the now-defunct Wasp Network.

Story continues here: Miami Herald

Editors Note: It seems the Miami Herald didn’t pay attention during last month’s testimony by Director of National Intelligence, General James R. Clapper, who told Congress Russia, China, Iran & Cuba pose the greatest threat to the United States.