Archive for the ‘Cuba Sanctions’ Category


Oct

24

Just What Part of “Executory” Don’t You Understand?


Posted by at 3:22 pm on October 24, 2016
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Image via https://pixabay.com/p-1202440/?no_redirect [Public Domain]A lawyer at another DC firm is having a conniption fit over the part of the new Cuba regulations that authorizes U.S. persons to enter into executory contracts in Cuba that are contingent upon OFAC approval. He apparently thinks that this goes to the “core” of the embargo and that OFAC is overstepping its authority as circumscribed by section 102 of the Helms-Burton Act and, although he does not cite it, section 204 of that same act.

We’ve all been through this before: section 204 applies only if the President seeks to “end” the embargo. As long as imports of chia pets and thermal underwear from Cuba are prohibited, the embargo has not been ended, which leaves OFAC and the White House pretty much free to do what they want in this regard.

Section 102, which is the provision relied on here by the lawyer in question, codifies the Cuban Assets Control Regulations in effect as of the date of the law’s enactment. But those regulations, in section 515.201, specifically provide that everything prohibited by the regulations may be “authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury (or any person, agency, or instrumentality designated by him) by means of regulations, rulings, instructions, licenses, or otherwise.” So, once again, OFAC can pretty much promulgate general licenses and regulations to its heart’s content. Whether it was Mr. Helms or Mr. Burton who left open this truck-height loophole doesn’t really matter.

Leaving aside the broader issue of authority, the blog post criticizing OFAC’s new rules on executory contracts somehow thinks that this rule goes to the “core” of the embargo — but why that is the case is far from clear. The author thinks that the problem arises because the executory contract is somehow or other a “dealing” in the property of a Cuban national. Now granted, OFAC has previously interpreted dealing in such a broad fashion that someone who just thinks about buying a vacation casa in Cuba has probably violated the rules. But, in an actual universe where people speak a language where words have a circumscribed meaning, it seems clear that a contract that says it isn’t dealing in property until OFAC says its okay to deal in that property, isn’t “dealing” in that property. Thus, OFAC can issue this regulation on executory contracts without violating statutory prohibitions  because an executory contract can legitimately be seen as not dealing in the property in question, because this regulation has not ended the embargo and because it remains consistent with the authority that Congress gave OFAC in section 102 of the Helms-Burton Act to authorize whatever it wants by regulations and licenses.

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Oct

14

North Pole Praises Today’s OFAC Actions


Posted by at 4:27 pm on October 14, 2016
Category: BISCuba SanctionsOFAC

Santa Flanked by F-16

The following just arrived in my email:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDIA CONTACT: Elf E. McElfface, eemcelfface@gmail.com 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.

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Sep

29

I’ll See You in C.U.B.A.


Posted by at 9:41 pm on September 29, 2016
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Image via https://pixabay.com/p-1202440/?no_redirect [Public Domain]Several people have been wondering if I would write something about the allegation that Trump may have violated the Cuban embargo back in 1998. This blog expresses no opinion on political campaigns or figures, so I hesitate to wade into this other than as an opportunity to talk about how the Cuban sanctions are structured. So, for purposes of this post, I will take as hypothetically true for discussion the allegation, which has not been admitted by the Trump campaign, that in 1998 Trump asked consultants to go to Cuba on his company’s behalf to explore business opportunities there and that he later reimbursed their travel.

To begin with, it has to be observed that there is a five year statute of limitations on criminal and civil penalties related to the Cuba embargo. As a result, the possibility of a criminal prosecution or civil penalties if there was a violation, has long past.

The relevant prohibition of the Cuba sanctions is the oddly phrased prohibition in section 515.201 of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. That section prohibits any person “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” from engaging in specified transactions that “involve property in which [Cuba], or any national thereof, has at any time on or since the effective date of this section had any interest of any nature whatsoever, direct or indirect.” Those specified transactions are transfers through banking institutions, foreign exchange transactions, dealings in property and transfers of property outside the United States.

So the first question is whether asking consultants to go to Cuba to explore business opportunities there for your company violates that. Certainly when in Cuba, those consultants will have dealings in property in which Cubans have an interest — they’ll do that the minute they check into a hotel or drink a mojito. But does the U.S. person who simply asks them to go to Cuba by that request transfer anything through banks, engage in a foreign exchange transaction, deal in property or transfer property outside the United States? It would not seem so, which makes it hard to see a violation of this rule as written by sending consultants to Cuba.

The second question is whether the language in section 515.201 prohibits somebody from reimbursing the travel expenses of someone who has traveled to Cuba. It seems to me that there is a good argument that it does not. Unlike the mere travel request, this reimbursement transaction does involve dealing in property as well as a banking transaction.  But it’s hard to see that it involves any property in which a Cuban has or had an interest. No Cuban has any interest in the money paid to the traveler after he has left Cuba and has already made payments to hotels and restaurants in Cuba.  And that money seems to be the only property involved in the transaction. Clearly, the consultants engaged in one of the specified transactions involving Cuban property when they paid the hotel bill in Cuba, but it’s not so clear that, once the hotel was paid, any Cuban has or had any interest in the money used later to reimburse the traveler.

That being said, let me say that OFAC, which enforces these rules, takes the position that the reimbursement somehow or other does “involve” the Cuban hotel, which is, by my view, something like saying the butterfly that spreads its wings in Africa is involved in the hurricane that slams into the Outer Banks. In the end, of course, OFAC’s opinion, even if I think it stretches the meaning of “involve,” will control.

But, you say, since the consultants are violating the Cuban embargo, would Trump, if he sent them to Cuba and reimbursed them, have violated the embargo by conspiring with them or by aiding and abetting them in the violation of the sanctions? That is not clear either. The penalties established for violations of the Cuban embargo are set forth in section 501.701  That section prohibits and penalizes violations of the rules but does not include a penalty for aiding and abetting a violation, conspiring with someone to violate or causing a violation. This is in contradistinction to the parallel provision in the Iran sanctions, for example, which punishes anyone who “violates, attempts to violate, conspires to violate, or causes a violation” of the rules.

Again, I have to be clear that OFAC is not troubled by the niceties of the language of the Cuban embargo rules themselves, but would unambigously take the position that both sending the consultants to Cuba and the reimbursement of their travel expenses after they return, if that in fact occurred, would violate the Cuban sanctions.  So, kids, don’t try this at home.

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Aug

29

Let No Such Man Be Trusted


Posted by at 8:46 pm on August 29, 2016
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Send a Piano to Cuba by Cubanos en UK via Cubanos en UK Facebook Page per http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/UK-Effort-to-Donate-Piano-to-Cuba-Runs-Afoul-of-US-Blockade-20160822-0008.html [Fair Use]Some Cubans in London wanted to send a piano to Conservatory Amadeo Roldan in Havana. They raised money for this gift by holding a classical music concert and sold tickets for the event through the U.S. company Eventbrite. Things immediately went downhill for that poor piano.

Not surprisingly, Eventbrite confiscated the money from the ticket sales and refused to send it to Cubanos en UK. Daniesky Acosta, the head of that group, tried to tell Eventbrite that, as the group and the concert were in London, the confiscation of the funds was “outside U.S. law.” Except of course Eventbrite isn’t.

So Acosta tried a different tack, citing the E.U. blocking regulation that prohibits people in the E.U. from complying with the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Unfortunately, Eventbrite is in San Francisco and not subject to the directive. Cubanos en UK has sought to enlist the U.K. government on its side, again without much success given the location of Eventbrite.

Cubanos en UK then, oddly, talked to the Attorney General of the State of Iowa:

Cubanos en UK sought legal advice from the … attorney general of Iowa, Tom Miller, who has years of experience working on OFAC regulations with regards to the Cuba blockade. Miller told the organization that the transaction was legal, but Eventbrite continues to insist that it is in violation of OFAC regulations.

I’m not quite clear why the Attorney General of Iowa is an OFAC expert in the first place, but his alleged claim that the export of the piano to Cuba would be perfectly legal suggests that he might not in fact have profited much from his “years of experience” working on OFAC’s rules on the Cuba embargo. The closest exemption in the Cuba regulations would be the section which permits humanitarian donations to “projects involving formal or non-formal educational training.” This, without more, might cover the donation of piano to a music conservatory. The problem is the further qualification: the covered eductation training is limited to

Entrepreneurship and business, civil education, journalism, advocacy and organizing, adult literacy, or vocational skills; community-based grassroots projects; projects suitable to the development of small-scale private enterprise; projects that are related to agricultural and rural development that promote independent activity; microfinancing projects, except for loans, extensions of credit, or other financing prohibited by §515.208; and projects to meet basic human needs.

Although “civil education” is somewhat vague, it presumably means the sort of things taught in a civics class, and although you and I might agree that music is a basic human need, I think OFAC means more basic needs like food, water and shelter. So, for as much as I favor sending pianos to Cuba, it seems that a specific license would be needed.

[Title of this post is taken from here.]

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Aug

9

Gone Fishin’ (Again)


Posted by at 11:49 pm on August 9, 2016
Category: BISCuba SanctionsOFAC

Boat in Ernest Hemingway International Billfishing Tournament via http://www.internationalhemingwaytournament.com/images/stories/fish/DSC_6712.jpg [Fair Use]Longtime friend and blog reader Pat had a good catch (so to speak) with respect to yesterday’s post on the Ernest Hemingway International Billfishing Tournament in Cuba. The post noted that participation in the tournament by U.S. persons might be covered by the new OFAC General License in section 515.567(b) relating to participation in competitions in Cuba. Whether that license would apply depends upon whether Cubans could participate in the tournament, something which I thought was perhaps affected by the high cost of participation in the tournament.

Even if the OFAC license applied, U.S. participants who wanted to take their own boats into Cuban waters would need to deal with the temporary export of the boat into Cuban territorial waters, an export controlled by BIS. I noted that BIS had granted such licenses, but Pat pointed out in a comment to yesterday’s post that last September BIS amended license exception AVS to permit temporary sojourns of less than 14 days by U.S. recreational boats in Cuban waters as long as it was pursuant to travel authorized by a general or specific license from OFAC.

That’s a great point, and I had forgotten about the amendment to License Exception AVS. It also, given the 14 day sojourn limitation, raises the issue of the OFAC rule in section 515.207 that prohibits a boat that has entered Cuban waters and purchased goods (in this case, think live bait) from entering a U.S. port for 180 days.

OFAC does have an exception in section 515.550 for return in advance of this date by “vessel used solely for personal travel (and not transporting passengers)” and where the export was covered by BIS’s license exception AVS. As usual, OFAC’s drafting leaves much to be desired given that the distinction between personal travel and transporting passengers may not always be clear. Probably the distinction rests on whether the other passengers are paying or not, excluding, I suppose, personal friends sharing expenses. But I’m not sure I would want to run the risk of overstepping this not very well drawn line.

What about chartering a fishing boat in Miami to participate in the tournament? Although that would still probably be a “recreational vessel” covered by license exception AVS, it’s not clear whether that would be personal travel (by the charterers) or transporting passengers (by the captain and crew). I, for one, would want specific guidance from OFAC before getting on that boat.

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