Los Angeles, January 4, 2011 – The U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control is the government's watchdog over, among other things, the Cuban trade embargo. Highly active in penalizing smokers who purchased Cuban cigars over the Internet during the George W. Bush Administration, it has essentially ignored the area under Barack Obama.
With civil penalty releases completed for 2010, only one transaction for the unauthorized purchase of Cuban cigars over the Internet was levied, back in March. The transaction took place in late 2004 or early 2005 and the individual cited paid a fine of $525. That was it for the entire year.
The one fine equaled the 2009 total, where only a single purchaser - again in late 2004 or early 2005 - was hit with a penalty of $1,175.
By contrast, OFAC issued 27 penalties in 2008 for a total of $39,763.08, nearly double the 14 penalties issued in 2007 (for $20,330.70).
There have been no publicly-announced penalties related to the November seizures of 100,000 or so Cuban cigars sent from Swiss retailers to U.S. addressees, although the intended recipients received a cheery note from U.S. Customs that their shipments were seized as contraband and destroyed. That matter is still under investigation and it is not clear if OFAC will get involved.
The U.S. government's regulations concerning Havana cigars adopted during the Bush years are still in force and are so strict that an American buying a Cuban cigar outside the country - say, in London - and smoking it there is in violation of U.S. law. Don't believe it? The regulations are here.
~ Rich Perelman