In my line of work clients ask a lot of hypothetical questions. Practice law long enough and you’ll see that kicking the tires is a favorite pastime for many clients. Intellectual legal ping pong can be interesting. At the end of the match however, I toss in this caveat: there is no hypothetical defense when your caught breaking the law.
Our law firm receives many hypothetical inquiries about doing business in communist Cuba. Most of the time I advise folks, do not bother. Sure, it means turning away business; however, as a matter of policy, we pass on any legal work that benefits the regime, even if indirectly.
Why turn away business? I sleep better, for starters. And because there is absolutely no way to do business in Cuba without breaking numerous U.S. laws and regulations, especially the FCPA. The Cuban communist party is that rotten. Rotten to the core.
Corruption is so common in Cuba that people in the states, and Havana, openly talk about it, even to Miami Herald reporters. Consider this item from today’s paper:
The Miami businessman said he installs each [satellite phone] system in Cuba for $3,500 to $4,200 — cash paid in South Florida, with part of the mark up going to bribes on the island. The costs are usually paid by U.S. relatives of the recipients.
Let’s put this dollar figure in context. The average Cuban salary in the official economy is about $19.00 paltry dollars a month. That’s $228 a year. If your a Cuban lucky enough to receive remittances from relatives or friends in the United States, that figure will be higher.
In addition to the corruption issues, these folks are likely violating numerous Treasury Department OFAC regulations as well as Commerce Department Bureau of Industry and Security regulations. Exede Internet‘s legal department may want to check with their public relations people and the owner of its Miami subsidiary. Seems like someone has just put a regulatory target on the company. These folks need a compliance engine overhaul. Not even a tune-up will get them out of this mess if they get caught.
The Miami Herald story can be read here.
P.S., Interestingly, despite our no Cuba business policy, companies still retain us for legal advice on overall compliance with U.S. laws and regulations with regards to Cuba. We hope they take our advice and stay away. There are a lot of better places to do business in Latin America and the Caribbean these days. Cuba will come some day soon enough.