PAUL ELIAS | AP Biotechnology Writer
Biotechnology company Chiron Corp. admitted it illegally exported goods to Cuba and paid the U.S. government $168,500 in civil penalties, the U.S. Treasury Department reported last month.
The Emeryville-based company voluntarily disclosed to the department that a European subsidiary illegally shipped two vaccines for infants to Cuba between 1999 and 2002.
“It was an inadvertent shipment on our part,” said Chiron spokesman John Gallagher. He said Chiron is licensed to ship one type of pediatric vaccine through UNICEF to Cuba but inadvertently shipped two others not approved by the U.S. government.
Gallagher said Chiron reported the shipping error to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, which enforces the United States’ 42-year-old embargo on Cuba and other economic sanctions against six other countries.
It’s the second highest fine OFAC announced this year and the highest by a U.S.-based company. Panama City-based Alpha Pharmaceutical Inc. agreed to a $198,700 fine for also trading with Cuba.
In all, OFAC announced this year that 122 companies violated economic sanctions and were fined a total of $1.97 million for doing business with Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. Most of the violations involved dealings with Cuba.
What’s more, 226 people have been fined a combined $348,000 this year for travel and currency violations. All but one of those people, who OFAC declined to identify, were fined for transactions involving Cuba.
OFAC was criticized earlier this year by senators from both political parties for dedicating more resources to enforcing the embargo against Cuba than in blocking terrorists’ finances.
The agency supplied figures to the U.S. Senate that showed that at the end of 2003, OFAC had 21 full-time agents working Cuba violations and just four full-time workers hunting bin Laden’s and Saddam’s riches.
Since April 2003, OFAC has been publishing the names of companies it has fined, which have included Playboy Enterprises Inc., the New York Yankees and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.