Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Posted on Wednesday, 06.20.12

Cuba defends its banks amid Medicare fraud case

By PETER ORSI

Associated Press

HAVANA — A Cuban official said Wednesday that the country has strict

controls to avoid money laundering and works closely with banks to

detect and deter fraudulent transactions, responding to allegations by

U.S. prosecutors that millions of dollars defrauded from Medicare were

routed to the island's financial system.

The statement from Johana Tablada, deputy director for U.S. affairs at

the Cuban Foreign Ministry, came in response to a request from The

Associated Press after a Cuban-American man in South Florida was ordered

held in the case this week.

"Foreign commercial banks that maintain accounts in Cuban banks are

obliged to operate in strict compliance with international and Cuban

rules and must guarantee the reliability of their transactions and the

correct use of their accounts," read the statement emailed to the AP on

Wednesday.

Tablada did not directly address whether any money from the alleged

Medicare scam has been deposited in Cuban banks. She said that while

Cuba works with foreign banks to fight money laundering, Washington's

50-year-old economic embargo prevents it from doing the same with

American banks.

"It is because of the U.S. government and its policy of blockade" – the

term Cuba uses to refer to the embargo – "that this kind of cooperation

does not exist with U.S. institutions."

On Monday, U.S. prosecutors filed a motion accusing Oscar Sanchez, a

46-year-old Cuban-born U.S. citizen of conspiring to send proceeds from

the alleged Medicare fraud to shell companies in Canada, then to a bank

in Trinidad and ultimately to Cuba.

Sanchez was ordered to be held in custody pending arraignment, scheduled

for Friday. He could face 13 years if convicted. Sanchez's attorney,

Peter Raben, declined to comment on the charges.

The following day, prosecutors clarified that Cuba is not suspected of

involvement.

"There is no allegation and we have no evidence that the Cuban

government is involved in this case," said Alicia O. Valle, special

counsel to the U.S. Attorney.

But Havana nonetheless bristled at any suggestion it might be complicit.

Some in the Cuban-American exile community have alleged that the Cuban

government might have been taking a cut.

"It is not Cuba but the United States that is the world's main country

for money laundering," Tablada said.

The case against Sanchez is part of a broader investigation of an

alleged Medicare scam involving 70 Florida companies and more than $70

million of fraudulent billings. Much of the money was subsequently sent

abroad, though this is the first example where proceeds are alleged to

have ended up in Cuba.

The U.S. government's Medicare program provides health care to elderly

and disabled Americans.

Also Wednesday, Cuba's Foreign Ministry criticized the June 12

announcement that Dutch bank ING Bank NV would pay a $619 million

settlement to end probes of allegations that between 2006 and 2007, it

secretly funneled billions of dollars through the U.S. financial system

on behalf of Cuban and Iranian concerns in violation of U.S. sanctions.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the sanctions "make a mockery

of the worldwide demand for the United States to put an end to the

blockade against Cuba."

It also criticized the director of the Treasury Department's Office of

Foreign Assets Control, which is tasked with enforcing the embargo.

"Adam Szubin used threatening and disrespectful language and once again

demonstrated the extraterritorial and interventionist U.S. policy," the

statement said.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/20/2859346/cuba-defends-its-banks-amid-medicare.html


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