US OFAC Charges at Cuba

News from Cuba | Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury Department has intensified its watch over Cuban financial transactions and business under the Barack Obama Administration.

OFAC implements some 27 programs of economic sanctions, and many firms and banks have been fined in the past three years for doing business with Cuba.

In this hunt it has not mattered whether the company doing business with Cuba is from the United States or not. Just because it may involve a product made in the United States, even if the operation has been carried out through a third country or if the relation with Cuba was established by an office of a US firm abroad, the head office of the firm can be heavily fined or punished with the freezing or blockade of its assets.

And even CEOs risk jail, says Juventud Rebelde newspaper. The same happens if an office of a US firm in a third country incur in a violation of the absurd, complex legal architecture underpinning the US economic, commercial, financial blockade imposed on Cuba for over half a century.

Originally only 10 people made up OFAC; now it has 144 officials, says the newspaper.

The list of what OFAC calls international adversaries also include Syria, Iran, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, among others.

In the past few days, the agency revealed to have fined the firm Flowserve Corp., based in Irving, Texas, for selling oil prospecting equipment to companies that maintain relations with Cuba.

Accused of circumventing the blockade, Flowserve must pay 502,000 USD besides an additional 2.50 million USD to be paid to the Bureau of Industry and Security of the US Department of Commerce to face accusations of violating US export regulations, reported Juventud Rebelde newspaper. In August last year, US powerful bank JP Morgan Chase reached an agreement with the US government to pay a 88.3 million USD fine for violating White House restrictions regarding any trade deal with Cuba, Iran and Sudan.

OFAC prepared customs inspectors in charge of tracing passenger who violate the US blockade regulations, not only in US airports, but also in checkpoints established in other countries like The Bahamas, Bermudas and Aruba.

Besides its close watch on US citizens that ignore the travel ban on Cuba, they also inspect direct flights and passengers born in Cuba travelling to the Island, seizing Cuban products like rum and tobacco they may have bought.

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