Cuba suspends licenses of 14 foreign firms
In a probe of illegal dealings with agencies that have ties to the Cuban
army, the Cuban government suspended the licenses of 14 foreign companies.
Posted on Tue, Mar. 25, 2008
BY WILFREDO CANCIO ISLA
El Nuevo Herald
The Cuban government has suspended the business licenses of 14 foreign
firms for alleged illegal activities tied to state agencies controlled
by GAESA, the powerful commercial consortium of the Cuban Armed Forces.
According to sources within the Ministry for Foreign Commerce and the
Cuban Chamber of Commerce, the foreign commercial representatives were
notified of the cancellation of their business licenses March 17 and 18,
following an internal investigation that questioned alleged
irregularities in the agreements established between the Tecnotex
company and retail chain TRD Caribe, both under the administration of GAESA.
'There was an `explosion' at Tecnotex for shady relations with foreign
businessmen,'' said an employee of the foreign commerce ministry who
requested anonymity. “More than just friendships were proven to exist;
there were some shady dealings.''
The commerce ministry employee added that, ''the decision came from the
highest level,'' with instructions to act “quickly and energetically.''
Although a complete list of the foreign firms that have had their
licenses revoked has not been made available, an individual employed by
the Cuban Chamber of Commerce told El Nuevo Herald that two Italian
companies, Agridea and Bella SRL, have been blacklisted.
Both companies provided merchandise to Tecnotex and TRD Caribe, among
other government-controlled retailers.
The commercial representative for Bella SRL is Italian entrepreneur
Humberto Bella, known to have broad relations among the commercial and
financial sectors of Cuba.
Besides revoking the business licenses of foreign commercial companies,
several employees and administrators of Tecnotex and TRD Caribe have
been sanctioned, apparently on charges of corruption and trafficking in
Tecnotex is the main import-export company of the Cuban Armed Forces
commercial sector and is led by Col. René Rojas Rodríguez. It has
offices in China, where most of its business is conducted in the
acquisition of replacement parts and accessories for automobiles,
construction material, home electronics and computers.
TRD Caribe is a retail chain that consists of more than 400 locations
offering items in cash throughout Cuba; and boasts annual profits that
exceed U.S. $100 million.
The Cuban army's GAESA, or Grupo de Administracion Empresarial S.A.
(Entrepreneurial Administration Group), is the corporate umbrella that
covers a dozen national businesses. Since February it has been led by
Major Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, the son-in-law of Raúl
Castro. He is known for his career in Cuban finance.
Rodríguez assumed the leadership of GAESA after his predecessor, the
Gen. Julio Casas Regueiro, 72, was named to replace Raúl Castro's as
head of the Cuban army.