Americas

IRS: We can’t find $64,000 seized after Sandinista overthrow

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has told Cuban-American Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, it cannot verify what happened to $64,285.71 in a Citibank account that a Nicaraguan exile in Key Biscayne claims was illegally seized after the Sandinistas overthrew Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to provide information on what Citibank did with the funds, nor how the funds were accounted for in its business operations, especially with the limited amount of details,” Sandra H. Adams, an IRS governmental liaison, wrote to Ros-Lehtinen April 21.

Adams’ letter was in response to a Lehtinen letter to the IRS on behalf of Luis Urcuyo, a constituent. Urcuyo is the grandson of the late Nicaraguan president Francisco Urcuyo Maliaños, who briefly headed the government in Managua after Somoza fled the country in 1979 at the triumph of the Sandinista revolution.

For years, Urcuyo has claimed that soon after the Sandinistas took over Nicaragua, the money in the Citibank account disappeared mysteriously. He says the money belonged to his grandfather and was largely proceeds of a lottery jackpot won prior to the revolution.

At first, Urcuyo said, the bank told the family that the Sandinistas had seized the money along with other assets of pro-Somoza government officials. But eventually, the family concluded that the Sanidnistas had not seized the money because it was not included in official lists of confiscated assets and property.

Urcuyo has tried different tactics to compel the bank to disclose what happed. The latest effort was the Ros-Lehtinen request to the IRS.

Urcuyo was upset the IRS did not do more to find out what had happened to the money, if only to collect possible taxes owed to the United States.

“It is my desire that justice be done and force Citigroup or Citibank to pay its respective taxes to the Department of the Treasury,” Urcuyo said in an e-mail message to el Nuevo Herald.

A bank spokeswoman said she was going to look into the matter but that it might take time.

Urcuyo was nine years old when the Sandinista revolution forced Somoza to flee the Central American country.

As a relative of one of Somoza’s closest supporters, Urcuyo and his family were allowed to take shelter during the revolution in Somoza’s Managua bunker. Urcuyo remembers the bunker being like a luxury hotel where you could order room service.

As Somoza finally agreed to depart Nicaragua, after conceding defeat to the Sandinistas, he turned over the government to Urcuyo Maliaños.

Urcuyo Maliaños refused to surrender to the Sandinistas and was forced to flee the country on July 19, 1979 – the day the Cuban-backed revolutionaries won.

Somoza had fled two days earlier to Miami. Later, U.S. authorities forced Somoza to leave the United States. Somoza resettled in Paraguay, where a commando team assassinated him in September 1980.

Urcuyo Maliaños fled to Guatemala. He died in 2001.

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