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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Fugitive to Face Trial in Cuba

HAVANA -- He has eluded American justice for 25 years. But financier Robert Lee Vesco is finally going on trial -- albeit in a Cuban courtroom on charges of economic crimes against the communist government.

Vesco faces up to 20 years in a Cuban prison in connection with allegedly trying to develop and market a drug for cancer and arthritis without the government's knowledge.

He has been on the run since 1971, when he fled the United States to escape charges that he bilked mutual fund investors of $224 million. Cuba allowed him to settle here in 1982 after stays in the Bahamas, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

A 1989 U.S. indictment accuses Vesco of using Cuba as a base for drug trafficking. He also is wanted on charges of making an illegal $200,000 contribution to President Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign.

The Detroit native is the most notorious of the almost 100 fugitives from the American legal system in Cuba.

U.S. officials in Washington said earlier this month that Cuban authorities had considered charging Vesco with espionage and sabotage -- crimes that could have brought the death penalty. Instead, he was charged with acts "prejudicial to the economic plans of the country" and "illicit economic activity" in connection with the drug research and marketing.