Lawsuits Block Cuba’s Path to Normalization

January 24, 2015 – In The News
The Tampa Tribune

Joseph DeMaria was quoted in The Tampa Tribune article, “Lawsuits Block Cuba’s Path to Normalization.” Full text can be found in the January 24, 2015, issue, but a synopsis is below.

In the view of the United States, Cuba forfeited the sovereign immunity that protects it from civil suits in U.S. courts three decades ago when it embraced terrorist groups in Latin America.

Since that time the Cuban government has racked up a bill of more than $4 billion.

The civil judgments against Cuba were made possible by a 1996 U.S. law allowing victims of designated terrorist states to sue for damages and by a 2002 law allowing them to take the defendant’s assets frozen by the U.S. government.

At that time, more than $200 million in Cuban assets was frozen in the U.S., primarily money sitting in New York banks that was owed to Cuba by AT&T, Joseph DeMaria noted.

DeMaria helped to recover $47 million for the family of an American businessman executed by firing squad in Cuba in 1961, Howard F. Anderson. Cuba accused Anderson of helping to smuggle weapons to an anti-Castro group on the island.

Those still trying to collect include the families of American Bobby Fuller and Cuban Aldo Vera, DeMaria explained. Vera was a high-ranking Cuban police official who attempted to organize an anti-Castro political group in Puerto Rico, where his family contends he was gunned down in 1976 by Cuban agents.

Complicating matters is that Cuban-owned assets cannot be seized in the U.S. if they are produced in a partnership with a third country.

London-based Imperial Tobacco is the international partner of Cuba’s state-owned tobacco company, Habanos, and has exclusive rights to distribute Cuban cigars off the island.

DeMaria believes such deals will blossom in the coming years to protect Cuba’s assets from U.S. seizure.

“Cuba is smart. They have a sophisticated team of lawyers setting up businesses with other countries,” says DeMaria.