Farewell to Habaguanex S.A.
Habaguanex S. A., the conglomerate founded by Eusebio Leal and administrated by the City of Havana Historian’s Office (OHCH), which in 2012 was at the epicenter of an anti-corruption campaign that shook the very foundations of the historic quarter, will disappear after being absorbed by corporations CIMEX and TRD Caribe, both belonging to the military consortium GAESA.
The transfer of administration was carried out stealthily, commencing last September, but earlier this year at the doors of retail establishments in the municipalities of Old Havana and Central Havana there appeared signs warning people: “Closed for inventory,” a sign that, according to sources, indicated an imminent “change of ownership.”
Although the closure will be just for a few days, the measure has upset residents, who must make long walks to buy food at other chain stores, where the shortages on shelves and refrigerators are notable.
Along with the real estate company Fénix and the construction firm Puerto Carena, Habaguanex formed part of an internal management model designed to capture funds for the reconstruction of the city’s Historic Center, an initiative that survived the very trying Special Period, but began to run aground due to a series of corruption scandals.
The torpedo that sank Habaguanex was the brewery known as La Factoría, located in the Plaza Vieja, whose manager was accused of illicit profits and the sale of drugs on site, in addition to heading up a clandestine chain supplying food to restaurants, a violation that also brought down the head of the central warehouses of the Historian’s Office, based at the headquarters of what was once San Ambrosio.
The investigations led authorities to Meyci Wess, then general manager of the corporation, who headed up a corrupt clan, a sort of mafia that made life miserable for workers who refused to collaborate in their shenanigans. Wess’s most trusted managers were nicknamed “the untouchables,” and their embezzlement rose into the millions. Thanks to their influence peddling, these individuals were also able to obtain visas and travel abroad. Wess was tried and punished, placed under house arrest, and sources consulted indicate that Eusebio Leal tried to help her.
The scandal also metastasized to the justice system, as some defendants bribed lawyers belonging to the association of collective firms and the municipality of Old Havana, who were then prosecuted for the crime of bribery in case 214/2013. However, the scapegoat for the whole scandal coming out of Habaguanex was the former manager of La Factoría, who, according to sources, has not been pardoned in the deals that, in response to orders from the Holy See, benefited to a greater extent those sanctioned for economic crimes.
The building firm Puerto Carenas and real estate company Fénix were also embroiled in corruption cases involving the theft of construction materials and the sale of stands in the areas of the San José Warehouse Cultural Complex, irregularities not detected by Comprehensive Oversight Directorate (DIS) or General Comptroller of the Republic.
Many claim that the money embezzled in the rescue of the Historical Center comes two twice the investment made so far. Meanwhile, Dr. Eusebio Leal, supposedly “not involved in any of the transgressions,” is in charge of leading a crusade against the misuse of national symbols.