http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/priceline-and-center-for-cross-cultural-study-fined-for-ofac-violations/

HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Priceline and Center for Cross Cultural Study fined for OFAC violations

Posted November 03, 2008 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

ENTITIES – 31 CFR 501.805(d)(1)(i)

Priceline.com, Incorporated Settles Cuban Assets Control Regulations Allegations:

Priceline.com, Incorporated, Norwalk, CT (“Priceline”), has remitted $12,250.00 to settle allegations of violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations occurring between September 2004 and November 2007. OFAC alleged that foreign subsidiaries of Priceline provided travel-related services in which Cuba or Cuban nationals had an interest by arranging hotel reservations for Cuban nationals without an OFAC license. Priceline voluntarily disclosed this matter to OFAC.

Center for Cross Cultural Study, Inc. Settles Cuban Embargo Program Allegations:

Center for Cross Cultural Study, Inc. (“CC-CS”), Amherst, MA has remitted $15,000.00 to settle allegations of violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations occurring during the period March 2003 – January 2004. The alleged violations relate to CC-CS’s transfer of funds to Cuba in connection with its operation of semester abroad programs on behalf of various licensed U.S. colleges and universities. CC-CS did not voluntarily disclose this matter to OFAC.

Myers Industries, Inc. Settles Cuban Assets Control Regulations Allegations:

Myers Industries, Inc. (“Myers”), Akron, OH has remitted $16,250.00 to settle allegations of a violation of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. OFAC alleged that in April 2004, a foreign subsidiary of Meyers made an unlicensed sale of goods in which Cuba or a Cuban national had an interest. Myers voluntarily disclosed this matter to OFAC.

READ THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENT HERE

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Member Comments

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On November 03, 2008, publisher wrote:

Once again these are shameful actions by the US Treasury OFAC division.

How is Priceline supposed to avoid this: “foreign subsidiaries of Priceline provided travel-related services in which Cuba or Cuban nationals had an interest by arranging hotel reservations for Cuban nationals without an OFAC license.”?

Do they have to add a check box asking whether people are Cubans or not?

Regarding the $15,000 fine to CCCS, it is my understanding that they were fully licensed for these trips. I would like to know the amount of funds wired to Cuba.

Regarding Myers: a “foreign subsidiary” made a sale to Cuba. That’s our government at work folks. Reaching all the way around the world to restrict US business just to support the 46 year old failed Plan A Embargo.

VOTE FOR OBAMA!

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On November 04, 2008, Cubana wrote:

The trouble is it is not just US business this affects - foreign businesses that have significant investments in the US are also running scared of falling foul of these regulations. Is it any wonder the US is detested in so much of the world? If you lose a game 185 - 3 surely you should change your team and tactics?

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On November 04, 2008, publisher wrote:

Perhaps President Obama will make big changes.

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On November 04, 2008, manfredz wrote:

i think the US is about to use Plan B.  - If you cant change your president’s policies, change your president.

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On November 04, 2008, publisher wrote:

Inside Higher Ed - Published November 4, 2008

Study Abroad Under an Embargo

In 2004, the U.S. government tightened regulations on academic travel to Cuba, precipitating dramatic declines in the number of U.S. college students studying abroad there. The Center for Cross-Cultural Study (CC-CS), an Amherst, Mass.-based study abroad provider, was one of many entities that subsequently suspended its Cuba-based programs.

But its pre-2004 activities remained of interest to the federal government. Last month, CC-CS entered into a $15,000 settlement with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control regarding allegations that its role in running study abroad programs as a subcontractor of sorts - acting “on behalf of various licensed U.S.
colleges and universities” - violated federal restrictions on relationships with Cuba then in place.

A Treasury Department spokesman declined to comment on the settlement beyond a blurb published Monday. Jerry Guidera, U.S. director for CC-CS, said that the case stemmed specifically from the provider’s partnership with Willamette University, in Oregon (Willamette was not involved with the legal dispute, he said).

According to Guidera’s account, Willamette held the necessary license from the Treasury Department to sponsor academic programs in Cuba, but, from 1997-2004, CC-CS designed the academic program and handled program logistics on behalf of Willamette. CC-CS hired Cuba-based staff and wired funds.

It was when the government blocked an attempted wire transfer, intended to cover program costs, in January 2004 - the Treasury Department says the settlement covers alleged violations form March 2003 to January 2004 - that Guidera said CC-CS came under governmental scrutiny.

“We’ve been dealing with this for almost five years now,” said Guidera, who added that the statute of limitations on the alleged violations is set to expire soon and that, in reaching the settlement, there was no finding of fault. He believes the regulations then in place allowed for subcontractors to act on licensees’ behalf. “We’re convinced that we would have won in court.”

“If we had infinite resources we would have kept fighting this one forever.”

Other study abroad sponsors have paid fines to the Treasury Department in the past due to allegations that they, or entities they did business with, lacked the licenses required to support academic travel in Cuba. Those fines, like the one against CC-CS, related primarily to pre-2004 activities, however, and since then, the number of colleges even
attempting to offer study abroad programs in Cuba has dropped to “as many as 12,” down from several hundred, according to Wayne Smith, an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, where he directs the Cuba program.

Institute of International Education data show a drop in the number of U.S. students in Cuba from 2,148 in 2003-4 to 140 in 2005-6, the latest year for which estimates are available.

As a Johns Hopkins adjunct, Smith has been unable to teach in Cuba for the university. In addition to stipulating that study abroad programs in Cuba be no shorter than 10 weeks, the September 2004 regulatory changes limited licensed, accredited colleges to running Cuba-based programs involving only their own students and their own full-time employees.

A judge rejected a legal challenge to the 2004 regulatory changes filed by the Emergency Coalition to Defend Educational Travel; the case is now under appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, said Smith. He expects a decision by the end of the year, but predicted that if Sen. Barack Obama wins the presidency today, there will be a move toward removing restrictions on academic travel regardless.

(Obama’s Web site states: “[I]f a post-Fidel government takes significant steps toward democracy, beginning with freeing all political prisoners, the U.S. is prepared to take steps to normalize relations and ease the embargo that has governed relations between our countries for the last five decades.”)

For CC-CS’s part, “The monkey is off our back,” Guidera said of the end to litigation.

More broadly speaking, the provider considers its academic programs in Cuba to be “temporarily suspended.”

A statement from CC-CS reads, “We remain committed to academic programming in Cuba and are prepared to return to Cuba when U.S. regulations allow for such programs.”

- Elizabeth Redden

(c) Copyright 2008 Inside Higher Ed

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On November 04, 2008, publisher wrote:

Information sent via email by CC-CS Director Jerry Guidera and published with permission:

The Center for Cross-Cultural Study (CC-CS) settled claims by the U.S.Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) related to the institution’s academic programs in Cuba.

In partnership with Willamette University, Salem, Oregon, CC-CS operated academic programs at Universidad de la Habana (ULH) from 1997 to 2004, providing language and culture programs to hundreds of U.S. university students. These credit-granting programs afforded students the unique opportunity to study at ULH in a structured and supported academic
program that facilitated cross-cultural education.

The dispute between CC-CS and OFAC centered on the interpretation of U.S. regulation on licensed travel to Cuba. Willamette held a license from OFAC for academic programs in Cuba, CC-CS designed the academic components and handled the logistics and development of the partnership programs through staff in the U.S. and on site.

The settlement, at a cost of $15,000 to CC-CS last month, was agreed upon without any finding of fault. CC-CS also designed and implemented academic programs for other U.S. partner institutions in Cuba.

Willamette was not a party to the dispute.

“We reached this settlement in order to avoid the expensive and burdensome task of waging a legal challenge to OFAC,” Nicholas Guidera, Executive Director, adding: “We look forward to returning to Cuba under any new U.S. regulations that would allow the reestablishment of our academic programs.”

In May 2004, most U.S. study abroad program sin Cuba were forced to shutter because of a regulatory change that resulted in a broad reinterpretation of the licensing rules for travel to Cuba, affecting all travel to the island, from family visitations and academic programs, to religious and humanitarian travel. The rule change made U.S. academic
programming in Cuba generally uneconomical and logistically difficult to develop, resulting in the elimination of nearly all U.S. study abroad programs in Cuba.

As a result of the new regulations established by the U.S., CC-CS closed all academic programming on the island. CC-CS considers our academic programs to be temporarily suspended due to the new regulations. We remain committed to academic programming in Cuba and are prepared to return to Cuba when U.S. regulations allow for such programs.

Based in Amherst, MA, CC-CS has provided Spanish language and culture programming to more than 20,000 program participants since 1969.

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On December 31, 2008, publisher wrote:

We have been monitoring the release of all OFAC civil penalties news releases. There have been few to none for a couple months now.

We just got notice of the latest release and there were NO violations for businesses or individuals fined for Cuba related sanctions violations.

Perhaps the Bush Administration is finally allocating OFAC resources towards more important violations than those who purchase Cuban cigars or book a hotel room over the internet.