The Cuban government Thursday denounced what it called the unjust and illegal multi-million dollar fines the U.S. government slapped on two foreign banks for violating Washingtons sanctions on the island.
The U.S. actions show that its ferocious persecution of financial and commercial transactions by Cuba and those with legitimate relations has only changed but has hardened, a Foreign Ministry official said in a statement.
The British-based HSBC bank agreed to pay $1.9 billion to the U.S. government last week to settle accusations that it laundered drug money through its Mexican and other branches, and violated U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba.
The next day Washington announced that Japans Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ bank had agreed to pay $8.6 million to settle what the Cuban statement called a supposed violation of the unilateral sanctions of the United States against various countries, including Cuba.
Under the trade embargo, banks cannot move Cuban funds through U.S. financial institutions or handle U.S. dollar deposits for Cuban entities or citizens. Cuba is subject to other sanctions as well because it is on the U.S. list of countries that support international terrorism.
The Foreign Ministry statement noted that the sanctions came one month after the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for the 21st time to condemn the 50-year-old trade embargo against Cuba.
While the HSBC settlement was reported to be one of the largest ever, the U.S. Treasury Department has hit several other foreign banks in recent years for violating sanctions on Cuba and other countries, especially Iran.
The Netherlands ING bank agreed to a $619 million settlement earlier this year. Credit Suisse agreed to pay $539 million in 2009. And the Swiss UBS bank was hit with a $100 million settlement in 2004.