By JEANNINE AVERSA | ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
The Bush administration identified an electronic money transfer business that it suspects is linked to Cuba and thus will not be allowed to do business in the United States.
The action by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control against the company, Sercuba, means any of the company’s assets or property found in the United States are frozen and that Americans are barred from doing business with the company.
Treasury said that Sercuba provides a way for people in the United States to send money to Cuban nationals via a third country or through Sercuba’s Web site. The company has a call center in Havana and 16 offices in Cuba as well an office in Italy and one in Spain, the department said.
“The entity is organized under Cuban laws and is supported by Cimex,” a company the U.S. government has previously identified as being linked to Cuba, Treasury said.
Companies identified by the United States as being owned or controlled by the Cuban government or Cuban nationals are subject to having their financial assets blocked in this country and barred from doing business with Americans.
U.S. financial institutions - now on notice about Sercuba’s status - will block financial transactions that a person in the United States tries to conduct over Sercuba’s Web site, said Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise.
The department’s action marks the latest development emerging from President Bush’s call for more stringent enforcement of provisions that forbid most economic activity with and travel to Cuba.
“We are financially isolating Sercuba to make it more difficult for the Cuban regime to obtain the hard currency it uses to oppress it own people and to prop up its government,” said Juan Zarate, Treasury’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crime.
President Kennedy imposed economic sanctions against Cuba in 1963 during the Cold War. The basic goal is to isolate the Cuban government economically and deprive it of U.S. dollars, the government says.
Congress has sought to ease the travel ban to the country but so far have been unable to get a bill to Bush that would do that. The White House has warned that Bush would veto legislation that would weaken the travel ban.