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Bacardí backs right to sue over Cuba property

Cuban roots: Bacardí’s properties on the Caribbean island were seized by the Fidel Castro regime in 1960 (File photograph)

Bacardí supports the right to seek justice for those whose properties were confiscated in Cuba by the Fidel Castro regime almost 60 years ago.

The Bermudian-based company was commenting in the wake of the United States’ opening of a very limited scope for lawsuits against Cuban companies benefiting from properties seized after the Caribbean country’s 1959 revolution.

The family-owned global drinks giant moved to Bermuda in 1965, after Cuba’s communist government confiscated the company’s private assets in October 1960.

US President Donald Trump’s administration this week opened the door to a limited number of legal actions under a section of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act.

Title III allows for protection of property rights in Cuba, creating the opportunity to sue those who “traffick” confiscated property, such as hotel owners using sites that were seized decades earlier.

Bacardí told The Royal Gazette : “Bacardí, like many others, is a company that lost all of its Cuban properties to illegal confiscation without compensation.

“We support the right and ability of those impacted to seek justice and to prevent further trafficking in stolen properties.”

Successive US presidents have suspended Title III for successive six-month periods, given the potential for complex and expensive legal actions against many global businesses and the potential for subsequent trade disputes with the US.

Major investors in Cuba include British tobacco giant Imperial Brands, which runs a joint venture with the Cuban government making premium cigars; Spanish hoteliers Iberostar and Melia, which run dozens of hotels across the island; and French beverage-maker Pernod-Ricard, which makes Havana Club rum with a Cuban state distiller.

Bacardí has battled with Pernod-Ricard in the US courts for years over who owns the right to the Havana Club name.

While this week’s loosening of the suspension limits lawsuits under Title III to a list of about 200 Cuban businesses and government agencies that are already subject to special US sanctions because they are tied to the Cuban military and intelligence ministries, there are signs that firmer action could be on the way. The Trump administration said its latest Title III suspension would expire after 30 days, while most previous suspensions have lasted six months.

The action is being presented as retaliation for Cuba’s support of Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela, whom the US is trying to oust in favour of opposition leader Juan Guaido.

On Twitter, US senator Marco Rubio wrote: “Today, expect the United States to take the first in a series of steps to hold the regime in #Cuba accountable for its 60 years of crimes & illegality which includes its support for the murderous #MaduroCrimeFamily. Justice is coming. And more to come.”

The US has maintained a six-decade trade embargo on Cuba.

Bacardí was founded in Santiago de Cuba in 1862.

Mahesh Madhavan, Bacardí’s CEO, told The Royal Gazette last month, that he hoped Bacardí’s global headquarters would remain in Bermuda for the next “500 years” and that “Bermuda is our home now”.