Cuba

Treasury Department reaches settlement with pro-Cuba activist accused of violating embargo

A U.S. and Cuban flag hang in Old Havana Cuba.
A U.S. and Cuban flag hang in Old Havana Cuba. AP

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has agreed to drop legal proceedings against longtime pro-Cuba activist Albert A. Fox Jr. in exchange for a fine of $10,000.

The settlement comes four months after OFAC hit the Tampa-based businessman with a $100,000 fine for alleged violations of the U.S. embargo during two trips to the island within the past six years.

Fox, president of the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation, was accused of providing unauthorized travel services to the island for delegations of Americans as well as conducting unauthorized transactions during two separate business trips, one in August 2010 and the other in September 2011. The 2011 trip included several politicians, who had seats on the inaugural Tampa-Havana flight.

“OFAC concluded that the Alleged Violations were frequently undertaken while the Individual held himself out as an officer of the Alliance” and that “the alleged violations were not voluntarily self-disclosed to OFAC,” said the information released by the Treasury Department on its website. It also indicated that the sanctioned “individual,” in reference to Fox, was aware that his actions violated the embargo, as he was warned in a letter from OFAC.

Fox told el Nuevo Herald he still believes he did nothing “un-American” and did not break the law. The settlement document obtained by el Nuevo Herald states that “this agreement shall not in any way be construed as any admission by Fox or the Alliance that either engaged in any alleged violations, including as described in this settlement agreement, that they denied.”

The final fine imposed was significantly lower than the initial $100,000 fine because OFAC took into account the financial situation of Fox and the Alliance and considered that the actions had caused “minimal harm to the current objectives of the U.S. sanctions program regarding Cuba,” according to a report released by the Treasury Department last week.

“Several experts told me that this was truly a good agreement but the tragedy is that the government has dedicated years to this investigation, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to find nothing,” Fox said. “What sense does it make for taxpayers to pay for the salaries of all those people?”

...the tragedy is that the government has dedicated years to this investigation, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to find nothing.

Albert A. Fox Jr.

In documents that were obtained by el Nuevo Herald and detailthe response to OFAC, Fox’s defense attorney asserted that the OFAC office in Miami had “harassed” Fox for years because of public statements calling for the closure of that office and because of the activist’s efforts in organizing exchanges between Tampa-area politicians and representatives of the Cuban government. Also, the defense asserts, that OFAC office ignored allegations made by Fox about violations committed by other persons and entities in relation to travel to Cuba.

“My client continues to believe he did nothing un-American, illegal, immoral, or unethical and that OFAC’s 14 years of harassment of him has been solely politically motivated,” Arthur Heitzer, who represents both Fox and the Alliance, said in a statement.

My client continues to believe he did nothing un-American, illegal, immoral, or unethical...

Arthur Heitzer, attorney

In 2002, Fox helped arrange a meeting between the then-mayor of Tampa, Dick Greco, and Fidel Castro in Havana and has been a promoter of the reestablishment of relations between both countries.

Last week, OFAC also announced sanctions against Toronto-Dominion Bank for 167 alleged violations on transactions tied to Cuba and Iran. The bank reached an agreement to avoid being taken to court and paid a fine of $516,115.

A statement from the Cuban Foreign Ministry said that these sanctions, “just a week before the end of the current U.S. government’s mandate, demonstrate the persistence of the economic, commercial and financial blockade and its extraterritorial reach.”

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter @ngameztorres

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