Stephen Purvis finally back home in England with family after ordeal in Cuba’s KGB-designed torture chamber Villa Marista–(the poor dear.) This citizen of “perfidious Albion” got some hard lessons from the long-reigning world champs at perfidy.
I SWEAR I am not making up the following statement by the British businessman who lived high off the hog in Cuba for over a decade as a Castro favorite while gloating about helping enrich the Stalinist regime:
“It was grim, absolutely grim,” he (Stephen Purvis) told The Sunday Telegraph. “Being accused of espionage is bad enough anywhere, let alone somewhere like Cuba. You get this overpowering sense of being forgotten by the world, and that you are about to receive a huge prison sentence for nothing at all.”
(Yes, just ask roughly half a million Cubans who during fifty-four years –including the ten you partnered with their torturers–went through this “grimness.” Just ask the thousands undergoing it today.)
He fled the island after a court released him a fortnight ago, following a trial conducted entirely in secret. Meanwhile, Coral’s offices in Cuba have been shut down, and the country club project in which he has invested millions of pounds and five years of his life has been handed to a Chinese firm.
Yet he counts himself lucky. During his time in Havana’s notorious Villa Marista spy interrogation centre, he feared he might never see the outside world again, or his wife Rachel and four children.
Mr Purvis says the jail was designed to send inmates mad. He was kept with three others in a filthy 8ft by 8ft cell, with the lights on around the clock and exercise limited to 15 minutes a week…”They decide absolutely everything about your life. The idea is to separate you from your personal identity, so you lose a sense of who you are. Several inmates who passed through my cell went cuckoo, and there was an attempted suicide about once a month. You’d be trying to sleep at night and suddenly there’d be this terrible wail from some other cell.”
Stephen Purvis and his Lebanese-born colleague Amado Fakhre were held after their company, Coral Capital Group, fell foul of a massive anti-graft drive launched by President Raul Castro. Until then, their investment firm had been playing a leading role in developing the Caribbean island’s tourist economy by financing luxury hotels and golf courses.
During their time in custody they were questioned at the Villa Marista, a notorious counter-intelligence headquarters, An architect by training, 52-year-old Mr Purvis lived with his family in Cuba and was a well-known figure on the island, serving as the board member of an international school in Havana and as the producer of a local dance show. As Coral’s chief operating officer, he was also the public face of the firm’s plans to build an ambitious 1,200 home golf resort on prime beachland on the edge of the capital at Bellomonte.
Coral also spent $28 million modernising the Saratoga hotel, a landmark in Havana’s historic city centre, and was also involved a raft of other businesses in Cuba, including ports, bottle manufacturing, film production and a Land Rover concession.
In an interview in 2011, Mr Purvis had said he felt confident doing business in Cuba, claiming to be well aware of the pitfalls that might put off other investors.
“We have invested time here; we’ve moved our families here,” he said. “We understand the culture. Cubans want to do business with people they know.”