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Embassy: 2 British men held in Cuba are released

HAVANA (AP) -- Two British business executives who were tried in Cuba last month on corruption charges were freed this week after spending nearly two years in captivity, the British Embassy said Thursday.

The embassy said it could not give many details on Amado Fakhre, who was executive director of the now closed Coral Capital Group, and Stephen Purvis, who was the investment firm's chief of operations. The men were arrested in 2011 and the company's offices were shut down during an anti-corruption crackdown by President Raul Castro's government.

Embassy spokesman Rhys Patrick said Purvis was let go Monday and Fakhre was released Wednesday. He said he couldn't discuss why the men were freed, or given any information on their whereabouts.

Before it was closed, Coral Capital had joint ventures with Cuban government businesses in managing hotels around the island and represented some foreign car companies in Cuba.

Government officials have not released information about the men's court hearing in late May, which was closed to the news media. A half dozen Cubans were also tried in the case.

Authorities have been pursuing corruption cases in recent years against both foreign business people as well as Cubans. Several dozen defendants have ended up in jail, including a few foreigners and high government officials accused of influence-peddling and taking bribes.

A week before the trial of the British men, Canadian businessman Sarkis Yacoubian, president of Tri-Star Caribbean import company, was tried in the same courthouse on reported charges of bribery, tax evasion and "activities damaging to the economy." No verdict has been announced in Yacoubian's case, but the Toronto Star has quoted a brother as saying Yacoubian was sentenced to nine years in prison.

A spokesman for Canada's Foreign Ministry, Barbara Harvey, said corruption charges also have been lodged against two other Canadian businessmen, Cy Tokmakjian and Krikor Bayassalian.

Harvey said she couldn't discuss any of the three cases, except to say Canadian officials are monitoring them and providing consular support.