In what can only be called a Cold War act of spite, America’s Treasury Department has stooped to a new low.
Kansas-based Biomin America, a reputable company specializing in animal nutrition, carried out 30 transactions of desperately needed agriculture products to Cuba through its subsidiaries abroad, On Cuban News reported.
The company believed it was doing the right thing, as the sale of food to Cuba by the United States is permitted.
However, there is a catch … America has an illogical hate-on for the Cuban regime, and a web of red tape awaits those who do business.
The American exporter must inform the Treasury Department, which then issues a permit through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Failure to do so, exposes them to a hefty fine.
After being scolded by the Treasury Department, Biomin America entered into a series of negotiations that ended in a settlement agreement — the company agreed to pay a penalty of US$257,862.
In a statement, the Treasury Department explained that while it should have applied for the export permit, the company “failed to take the steps necessary to do so” but “developed a transaction structure that it incorrectly determined would be consistent with US sanctions requirements.”
Since it was not a deliberate attempt to conceal something, the Treasury Department concluded that there was no premeditated violation, the report said.
“OFAC’s decision to leave the matter in a non-serious violation does not prevent the imposition of a fine,” explained Jerome Richardson, a lawyer specializing in international trade.
“But the interesting thing is that in these times when the Trump administration has imposed restrictions on Cuba, the Treasury Department decided to be more flexible than on other occasions.
“It must be said that the sale of food is still authorized, but you always have to ask for a license anyway. No one is spared in that sense. They give you permission, but you have to report what you are doing on a commercial level,” Richardson said.
Tougher sanctions by the right-wing Trump government against Cuba have led international banks to avoid transactions involving the island, while prospective overseas investors put plans on hold and foreign firms operating in the country consider restructuring to lower their risk exposure, Reuters reported.
On top of the decades-old embargo, the Trump administration has sanctioned nearly 200 Cuban military-run companies and hotels as well as any company or vessel involved with shipping Venezuelan oil to Cuba, Reuters reported.
Trump also activated Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which allows Americans to sue US and international companies profiting from property that was nationalized or confiscated after Cuba’s 1959 Revolution, Reuters reported.
American Airlines, Melia Hotels International, Amazon and French lender Societe Generale are among the companies that have been slapped with lawsuits under the Helms-Burton Act, which they are contesting in court, Reuters reported.
Virtually all nations at the UN strongly oppose US sanctions on Cuba, with only the US and Israel voting down efforts to end the Cold War blockade.
Biomin America did not respond to inquiries from Asia Times.