US Treasury devotes more resources to Cuba than terror suspects

Campaign News | Friday, 30 April 2004

Only four agents track Bin laden money while two dozen enforce the travel ban on Cuba

Friday April 30: A US Treasury Department report acknowledging that it has only four employees chasing Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein's money and nearly two dozen chasing Cuba embargo violators brought withering criticism on the federal agency on Thursday.

The report, by the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), first highlighted by the Associated Press, also noted that while OFAC opened just 93 enforcement investigations related to terrorism and collected just $9,425 in fines for terrorism-financing violations since 1994, it worked 10,683 cases on the Cuban embargo and collected more than $8 million in fines.

``The magnitude of the discrepancy is just stunning," said Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., a member of the bipartisan Cuba Working Group, which favors lifting U.S. restrictions on travel to the island.

``We're chasing old ladies on bicycle trips in Cuba when we should be concentrating on using a significant tool against shadowy terrorist organizations," he added.

The controversy erupted after the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee sent a letter to Treasury Secretary John Snow on Wednesday requesting a detailed accounting of the terrorist-related assets seized by the department since 1995, as well as the number of staffers dedicated to terrorist-related duties.

The letter was prompted by a little-noticed Treasury report to Congress in November revealing that the agency had six times the number of agents working on Cuba embargo violations than the two full-time investigators focusing on bin Laden's money and two others looking into Hussein's wealth.

OFAC is charged with enforcing U.S. economic sanctions against nations, including Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, as well as designated ``terrorist" organizations.

Treasury officials declined to discuss the amount of resources dedicated to embargo enforcement but acknowledged that Cuba is a priority for the Bush administration. The administration has been accused of being hard on Cuba to earn the votes of Cuban Americans.


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