August 27, 1996 in Nation/World

Fugitive Vesco Convicted In Cuba, Gets 13-Year Term Financier Fled U.S. 25 Years Ago To Avoid Facing Fraud Charges

Associated Press

Fugitive financier Robert Vesco, who evaded American authorities during decades on the run, was sentenced to 13 years in prison Monday after a Cuban court convicted him of economic crimes against the state.

Vesco, a Detroit native who became one of America’s most prominent fugitives from justice, was found guilty of producing and marketing a cancer and arthritis drug without the Cuban government’s knowledge. The verdict and sentence were announced in the state-run Prensa Latina news agency, monitored in Mexico City.

Lidia Alfonsa LLauger, Vesco’s Cuban wife, was convicted of lesser charges in the case and sentenced to nine years.

Vesco settled in Cuba after fleeing the United States 25 years ago to avoid charges that he bilked mutual fund investors of $224 million. Cuba has refused repeated U.S. requests to extradite him.

Cuban authorities arrested Vesco in May 1995, alleging he was secretly trying to sell the drug TX overseas, which he was developing with the help of Cuban government labs. Vesco already has been in custody 14 months awaiting trial.

During rambling testimony earlier this month, Vesco, 60, denied he defrauded the country that had given him haven from U.S. authorities.

“Why would I try to defraud people of money in a country where I am alive because they have let me stay here?” he asked the court then.

Vesco had admitted pressuring government officials and investors to get the drug TX patented in Cuba, “so our enemies wouldn’t get it and register it first.”

Vesco’s lawyer presented only a handful of witnesses during the trial during the first week of August. He argued that Vesco was trying to aid Cuba’s ailing economy.

Vesco is wanted in the United States on various charges, including making an illegal $200,000 contribution to President Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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