The staff of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, has written to the State Department asking about a deposit in a Managua Citibank branch that went missing after the Sandinistas overthrew Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979.
Ros-Lehtinen’s letter marks a renewed effort by the Cuban-American congresswoman on behalf of Luis Urcuyo, who is seeking information about the $64,285.71 in the account that at the time belonged to his grandfather — Francisco Urcuyo Maliaños, Nicaragua’s last president after Somoza fled and just before the Sandinistas took over.
Luis Urcuyo is a resident of Key Biscayne, which is within Ros-Lehtinen’s congressional district.
Ros-Lehtinen’s letter to the State Department comes soon after the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) responded to a similar recent letter saying it could not verify what happened to the money in Urcuyo’s account.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
“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.
For years, Urcuyo has claimed that soon after the Sandinistas took over, the money in the Citibank account disappeared mysteriously. He says the money was largely the proceeds of a lottery jackpot won by his grandfather and grandmother prior to the Sandinista 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 information. One effort was the Ros-Lehtinen request to the IRS.
Though the IRS said it had no information, it suggested asking the State Department.
“Mr. Urcuyo explains that during the 1970s, an account belonging to him with $64,285.71 was allegedly seized by the Sandinista government,” Ros-Lehtinen’s letter to the State Department said. “He states that later it was determined that the funds were not seized and that Citibank was responsible for returning the deposit.”
Urcuyo is now awaiting the State Department’s reply.
“I sincerely hope that the U.S. Department of State carefully reviews this information and comes to the conclusion that Citibank acted lawlessly and should govern itself according to the laws of the United States,” Luis Urcuyo said in an email message to el Nuevo Herald.
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.
Follow Alfonso Chardy on Twitter @AlfonsoChardy