BY PABLO BACHELET | Knight Ridder Newspapers
A House subcommittee will investigate Cuba and Iran’s dealings with the Swiss banking giant UBS in search of possible money laundering, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Friday.
The Cuban-American Republican made the announcement after a meeting Thursday with UBS Vice President Phil Gramm, a former Texas senator, produced no new information on the bank’s deals with Cuba.
“It was more of the same, more delays, more unkept promises,” she said.
Ros-Lehtinen said the investigation will be carried out by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which has the power to subpoena bank documents. The subcommittee is part of the House International Relations Committee.
UBS was already fined $100 million in May of 2004 for violating an agreement with the U.S. Federal Reserve that allowed UBS clients - except countries under U.S. sanctions - to swap old dollar bills for new ones. Cuba funneled $3.9 billion through UBS between 1996 and 2003.
UBS spokeswoman Christina Walton said the Fed has “never suggested or charged UBS with any actions ... that had anything to do with money laundering.’’ Cuba says the money was legitimately obtained, mostly through the tourism industry.
Walton said UBS no longer conducts any business with Cuban officials or residents in Cuba. “We conduct our business in the U.S. in strict adherence to local laws, and in the U.S., UBS follows U.S. laws as they relate to Cuba.’‘
However, she added that UBS was a global institution that facilitated “simple, third-party payment transactions on behalf of non-U.S. residents in Cuba. That is the business we are exiting.’’ This includes remittances sent to the island by Cubans outside the United States, or payments to foreign businesses operating on the island.
The subcommittee also will look into the origins of $762 million in U.S. cash that American troops in Iraq found in hide-outs linked to Saddam Hussein. The cash was traced to UBS and several other foreign banks.