By Mimi Whitefield, mwhitefield@MiamiHerald.com
The U.S. Agency for International Development and Development Alternatives Inc. finalized a settlement this week for claims related to USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, who was released from a Cuban prison last week.
Development Alternatives is the Maryland-based international development firm that subcontracted a USAID pro-democracy program to Gross to introduce satellite communications equipment into Cuba.
The amount of the settlement wasn’t disclosed but CNN reported that as part of it, Gross was to be paid $3.2 million.
Gross was arrested Dec. 3, 2009, and held in Cuba until last Wednesday when the Cubans released him as a humanitarian gesture. His release, as well as the swap of a CIA agent held in Cuba for three Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States, paved the way for a historic agreement that will restore diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.
USAID said the settlement resolves unanticipated claims pending before the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals under a cost-reimbursement contract and included claims related to Gross, who had served five years of a 15-year sentence at the time of his release.
The U.S. government has maintained that Gross was simply providing Internet access for the Jewish community in Cuba but the Cuban government said he was convicted for “illegally and covertly introducing … communications equipment meant only for military purposes.”
The Grosses filed a $60 million negligence suit in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia against both DAI and the federal government, alleging they had failed to adequately train and prepare him for the risks he would face in Cuba.
DAI earlier settled with the Grosses for an undisclosed amount but a judge dismissed the case against the government, saying it was immune from any claim arising in a foreign country.
USAID said the settlement with DAI, which was announced Tuesday, “avoids the cost, delay and risks of further proceedings, and does not constitute an admission of liability by either party.”