Archive for the ‘Cuba Sanctions’ Category



Word of the Day: Peloteros

Posted by at 6:04 pm on March 15, 2017
Category: BaseballCuba SanctionsOFAC

Cuba Baseball Stamp [Fair Use]It’s time for our annual Cuba baseball post which each year has been motivated by cold weather, spring training, and anxious anticipation of opening day. And what better subject for this post than the recently concluded trial in Miami in which Bartolo Hernandez, a baseball agent, and Julio Estrada, a baseball trainer, were accused of smuggling Cuban players into the United States and which featured testimony by one of these peleteros about how he ate his fake Haitian passport on his plane trip to the United States. (Insert optional better-than-airline-food joke here.)

One of the key elements of the case is section 515.505 of the Cuban Assets Control Regulation which unblocks Cuban nationals after they have established residency in a country outside Cuba other than the United States. The other element is that an unblocked Cuban in a third country is, under Major League Baseball’s rules, a “free agent” that can negotiate higher salaries; Cubans who come directly to the United States and become unblocked by seeking permanent residence here are eligible to be signed to an MLB team only through the amateur draft system and will not be able to command the astronomical salaries of a free agent.

According to prosecutors, the defendants smuggled the Cubans into third countries and then forged documents that could be used to evidence residency in those countries. The payoff to the defendants was the high commissions (allegedly around $150 million) that they received on the salaries of their free agent clients. The defense claimed that the two defendants did not forge documents and were unaware that the players, desperate to get to the United States, were using forged documents. The jury, however, convicted both men earlier today.

In other baseball news, opening day for the Chicago Cubs is Sunday, April 2, in St. Louis, a town that even the Rams had the good sense to escape.  Go Cubs Go!

Permalink Comments (1)

Bookmark and Share

Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)



Penn Senate Rum Runners Eye Cuban Rum

Posted by at 5:58 pm on March 6, 2017
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Havana Club on the Road to Havana by Richard Smallbone [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Flickr [cropped and processed]A story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (and not, I swear, in The Onion) reveals that a bunch of Pennsylvania state legislators flew off to Cuba where they concocted this genius plan. Step 1: ship boatloads of rum from Cuba to state liquor stores in Pennsylvania without an OFAC license and in defiance of the embargo. Step 2: argue that Pennsylvania can simply ignore the embargo and import all the rum it wants for ever and ever because of Clause 2 of the Twenty-First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Seriously. (The esteemed University of Pennsylvania Law School is reportedly so embarrassed by the legal reasoning of its local legislators that it packed up in the middle of the night and relocated to the recently vacated Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.)

If you just clicked on the above link to the Twenty-First Amendment, you are probably pretty confused as to how anyone, state senators included, could argue that this clause allows a state to import Cuban rum in violation of the Cuban embargo. After all, it reads:

The transportation or importation into any state, territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

It seems clear from the language and the history of Clause 2 that it was designed to allow states, if they wanted, to remain dry and regulate the sale of liquor in their own states. Mississippi, bless its heart, stayed dry until 1966. Kansas prohibited public bars until 1987. (Useful trivia: the reason Dorothy said to Toto, after landing in Oz, that they weren’t in Kansas any more was because she saw a bar.)

The clause has been read to give states the right to regulate the importation of liquor from other states by imposing taxes that would otherwise violate the Commerce Clause. But the courts have pretty much stopped there, with Craig v. Boren holding that Clause 2 did not permit states to set different drinking ages for men and women and California Liquor Dealers v. Midcal Aluminum holding that Clause 2 did not override the federal Sherman Act.

All that being said, nothing in Clause 2 which allows states to restrict importation and sale of liquor to their hearts’ content also allows states to import liquor in violation of federal law.  It says that imports prohibited by state law are prohibited, not that imports permitted by state law are permitted.  Morever, even if it did, the embargo would still apply.  If Clause 2 doesn’t trump the Sherman Act, it certainly doesn’t trump the Trading with the Enemy Act or Helms-Burton.

Moral of the story: legal theories concocted after long afternoons of daiquiris and mojitos in Havana will not likely survive judicial scrutiny.

Photo Credit: Havana Club on the Road to Havana by Richard Smallbone [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Flickr [cropped and processed]. Copyright 2013 Richard Smallbone

Permalink Comments Off on Penn Senate Rum Runners Eye Cuban Rum

Bookmark and Share

Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)



OFAC Fines Canadian Bank for Complying with Canadian Law

Posted by at 6:29 pm on January 31, 2017
Category: Cuba SanctionsEconomic SanctionsForeign CountermeasuresOFAC

Caught in the Act by Exile on Ontario Street [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Flickr [cropped and processed]The Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) recently whacked “Toronto-Dominion Bank … a financial institution headquartered in Toronto, Canada,” with a $516,105 fine for various sanctions violations including — get this — maintaining bank accounts for 62 Cubans in Canada.  Yes, OFAC is now going after Canadian banks for holding accounts for Cubans in Canada, apparently under the common delusion that Canada is the 51st state.

Of course, part of the problem here may be the endemic sloppiness in OFAC reports of its penalty actions. It’s not at all clear exactly what corporate entity is involved, as Toronto-Dominion Bank is not the name of any corporate entity that I could locate. It appears to be a reference to TD Bank Group, a Canadian corporation headquartered in Toronto, and not a reference to its U.S. banking subsidiary TD Bank, N.A., if for no other reason than that the U.S. banking operation does not have branches in Canada.

The jurisdictional hook alleged by OFAC to cause Cuban accounts in a Canadian bank to be illegal under U.S. law is, apparently, this:

Between August 7, 2007 and January 24, 2011, TD Bank processed 99 transactions totaling $459,341.62 to or through the United States on behalf of these customers in apparent violation of the CACR

OFAC can’t be bothered to explain what provision or how this violates the CACR, probably because it is just an “apparent” violation.  However, in all instances, violations must either be “by a person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States,” which TD Bank Group in Canada is not, or must involve “property subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.” The definition of “property subject to the United States” is set forth in 515.313 which only talks about securities and doesn’t mention currency. Apparently then OFAC’s theory here is part of its overreaching belief that dollars anywhere located and by whomever owned are, nonetheless, property subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. If you touch a U.S. Dollar, you can be sent to a U.S. jail.

Leaving aside the agency’s unconscionably expansive view of its own extraterritorial jurisdiction, OFAC, yet again, pretends that this tenuous extraterritorial connection over Canada trumps (so to speak) Canada’s own laws. The Canadian Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act forbids TD Group from complying with the U.S. boycott of Cuba. It is one thing (though not much better) to tell a U.S. company, such as Carlson Wagonlit, choosing to do business in a country with an embargo blocking statute that it must violate that foreign statute; it is quite another thing to say that to a foreign company that is incorporated in that jurisdiction.

Moreover, sections 3 and 5 of the Canadian Human Rights Act also likely would make it illegal for TD Group to deny services based on national origin to the Cuban account holders. During the time period involved in the violations at hand, section 515.505 provided that Cuban nationals who had taken up permanent residence in Canada were still blocked unless they obtained a specific license from OFAC. So, in effect, OFAC is fining TD Bank for refusing to violate the human rights of Cubans, including Cubans who were permanent residents of Canada.

An odd footnote to the OFAC announcement of the TD Bank Group fine notes the change in 515.505 which would unblock Cuban’s who became permanent residents of Canada without need for a specific license. Presumably this offers the cold comfort that, in the future, Canadian companies will only have to violate the human rights of a smaller group of people to avoid an OFAC fine.

Photo Credit: Caught in the Act by Exile on Ontario Street [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Flickr [cropped and processed]. Copyright 2009 Exile on Ontario Street

Permalink Comments Off on OFAC Fines Canadian Bank for Complying with Canadian Law

Bookmark and Share

Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)



Homeless Travel Blogger Advises Readers To Violate OFAC Rules

Posted by at 6:03 pm on January 10, 2017
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Ben Schlappig via [Fair Use]
ABOVE: Ben “Lucky” Schlappig

A homeless blogger named Ben “Lucky” Schlappig, who makes his living flying on airplanes and staying in hotels, has decided to take up the practice of law along with advising fellow travelers on the intricacies of the airline and hotel reward programs. The result is pretty much what you would expect when Lucky opines on the legality of traveling to Cuba as a tourist.

Technically Americans can only travel to Cuba for one of about a dozen approved reasons. … In practice, most people traveling to Cuba as tourists choose either “Support For The Cuban People” or “People-To-People Exchanges” as the reason for visiting.

So technically you can’t go if tourism is your stated reasons [sic], though in practice there are tens of thousands of American tourists going. That’s because they keep the categories intentionally broad, and you won’t generally be asked about the details of why you’re going to Cuba. Arguably when you’re a tourist somewhere you have “people-to-people exchanges” and also “provide support” to the people.

Without hesitation I’d feel comfortable recommending people visit Cuba as tourists and just state one of those as the reasons.

Arguably, when you’re relying on a pretend lawyer, your mileage may vary.  Also, never trust anyone who goes by the name of “Lucky.”

Of course, OFAC anticipated that amateur lawyers like Lucky would say that all tourism in Cuba was inherently a people-to-people exchange, so it gave an example here, in the actual rules (which Lucky clearly did not bother to read), to put the kibosh on such silliness:

An individual plans to travel to Cuba to rent a bicycle to explore the streets of Havana, engage in brief exchanges with shopkeepers while making purchases, and have casual conversations with waiters at restaurants and hotel staff. None of these activities are educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba, and the traveler’s trip does not qualify for the general license.

So, just as you should not trust my opinions on how to get the most frequent flyer miles from your airline, you probably shouldn’t trust Lucky when he tells you to travel to Cuba as a tourist.

Permalink Comments (3)

Bookmark and Share

Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)



How the OFAC Gave Back Christmas

Posted by at 8:19 am on December 22, 2016
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Santa Flanked by F-16

Before leaving for the holidays, I thought it would be appropriate to repost the good news that we received earlier this year regarding Santa’s annual toy delivery being finally released from OFAC restrictions on his route.

MEDIA CONTACT: Elf E. McElfface, or (951) 262-3062

Santa’s Village, North Pole – Santa Claus today, on behalf of himself, Mrs. Claus and the 40,000 elfployees of the Santa Foundation, expressed his gratitude to the Office of Foreign Assets Control for its timely revision of its rules to grant Santa clear authority this year to visit children both in the United States and Cuba. For years, Santa’s efforts to bring holiday cheer to children of both countries has been thwarted by section 515.207 of the Cuba regulations which would prohibit Santa’s sleigh from landing in the United States while toys for Cuban children remained in the sleigh or in landing in the United States if those toys had been delivered to Cuban children first.

Today’s action waives these restrictions if Santa’s sleigh only carries items that would, if they were subject to the EAR, be EAR99 or controlled only for AT reasons. This ends the long struggle over whether teddy bears and other toys — which are not food, medicine, or personal communications devices — could only be delivered to Cuban children in wrapped parcels with the child’s name and address written on the outside and with the statement “GIFT—Export License Not Required” also marked on the parcel package. Notwithstanding the diligence and timely efforts of Santa’s elfployees, compliance with these requirements for each non-naughty child in Cuba has heretofore been impossible.

News of the OFAC announcement led to loud cheers and applause throughout Santa’s Village. Elf E. McElfface, Santa’s spokeself, wiped a tear of joy from his eye as he said to the elves in one of Santa’s workshops that he never believed that this would occur in his lifetime, which was saying a lot given that the average life expectancy of an elf on the North Pole is currently just over 500 years.

As Christmas approaches, Santa said that he was looking forward to this year’s delivery of toys and goodies to the nice children throughout the world more than ever before and reminded children everywhere, both in Cuba and the United States, that they could call his hotline at +1 (951) 262-3062 to leave their Christmas wishes and toy requests.

This press release may include predictions, estimates or other information that might be considered forward-looking. While these forward-looking statements represent the Santa Foundation’s current judgment on what the future holds, they are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which reflect our opinions only as of the date of this press release. Please keep in mind that we are not obligating ourselves to revise or publicly release the results of any revision to these forward-looking statements in light of new information or future events.

I hope all Export Law Blog readers are able to take some time off and enjoy the holidays with their family and friends. See you in 2017!

Permalink Comments Off on How the OFAC Gave Back Christmas

Bookmark and Share

Copyright © 2016 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)