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HAVANA - A Cuban court has convicted 12 officials at a state-owned firm, including three former deputy ministers, of corruption, the Communist Party-run Granma newspaper said Tuesday.
The rare move comes as part of an anti-corruption campaign launched by President Raul Castro, who has sought to shore up the island's decades-old communist regime with limited economic reforms since assuming power in 2006.
The 12 officials from the state-run firm Cubaniquel were found guilty of crimes related to an expansion project at a nickel and cobalt refining plant in the east of the country, Granma said.
Nickel is Cuba's main export and the plant is part of the Moa Joint Venture between the government and Canada's Sherritt International, a partnership established in 1994.
The longest sentence, at 12 years, was handed down to the company's CEO Alfredo Zayas, who served as deputy minister from 2004-2007.
Ricardo Gonzalez, who headed the board of directors and had served as deputy industry minister on two occasions in the last decade, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and Antonio de los Reyes, who served as vice minister from 1980-1999, was given eight years.
The other nine convicts were sentenced to four to seven years in prison. All of those convicted can appeal to the country's Supreme Court.
Castro has vowed to combat corruption as part of his program of limited economic reforms aimed at modernizing the Western Hemisphere's sole one-party communist state.
Last year Alejandro Roca, a former minister of food industries, was convicted of bribery and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
And in 2010 minister of basic industries Yadira Garcia was fired for "shortcomings" and exerting "weak control over resources set aside for investment and production."
Garcia's sacking was seen at the time as a sign of Raul Castro's commitment to reform the state-run economy he inherited from his brother Fidel, the revolutionary icon who governed Cuba for nearly five decades.