Cuba Politics

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen continues to probe Swiss bank UBS for possible money laundering

Posted October 10, 2005 by publisher in Cuba Politics.

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.

Member Comments

On October 10, 2005, publisher wrote:

I think Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is just trying to make a name for herself. Since she can never run or promote anything positive because she has no creative bones in her body, she needs to look around the world for all things bad.

If she is claiming money laundering by UBS, she had better have a good reason for accusing a SWISS bank for illegal activities.

Someday she is going to stick her block-headed nose into somebody else’ business and look stupid…okay stupider.

On October 11, 2005, bernie wrote:

Ilena, should look in her own back yard to
investigate.  When you point a finger at someone
else, notice that you have 3 fingers pointing
back at yourself.  Ilena, just made my list of

On October 12, 2005, redwood wrote:

I read the politics as a no-lose for her: 1) UBS revenue is over 6 billion/year, meaning she’ taking on the big guys 2) Phil Graham is a famous Republican, meaning she’ is her own woman, sort of thing. 

Separately, from Corporate Alliations, it appears that UBS is headquartered outside of the USA.  They have two US “groups” with their own subsidiaries and agencies so that by paying that whopping fine the parent was protecting her interests in the US. 

Unless the Cubans were swapping dollars at one of these US groups, this fine of a parent company rips a rug out from under those sadists who say that the US Embargo is basically meaningless since Cuba is free to do business with whomever it pleases, just not with US businesses. 

The Embargo has a material impact on third party trade too, since no one can afford to risk access to US markets.  USB is a textbook example.