U.S. Diplomats, Families in Cuba Targeted Nearly 50 Times by Mysterious Sonic Attacks: Official 2

By KTLA 5

Some of the 21 US diplomats believed to have been impacted by mysterious acoustic attacks in Cuba were targeted multiple times, CNN has learned from a senior US official.

There were nearly 50 attacks in total, the official said.

The incidents have challenged the US government’s assessment that Cuba is a safe country for US diplomats and their families and threatened the future of the newly reopened embassy.

Despite the often-empty supermarkets and antagonistic relations with the communist-run government, Cuba for years offered US diplomats a rare benefit: It was safe.

Unlike in many other countries, in Cuba, US Embassy employees didn’t have to worry much about terrorist attacks, kidnapping or even petty crime. The Cuban government’s tight control over the island made Havana one of the safest cities in the world.

Diplomats — especially those Cuba suspected of being spies — might suffer harassment at the hands of the powerful state security apparatus, but there were established lines neither of the Cold War adversaries would cross.

But starting early this year, US diplomats heading to the island to begin their postings were quietly warned they could face a mysterious threat that was causing American Foreign Service officers to fall ill, some with long-lasting symptoms.

Investigators haven’t determined the cause of the incidents, but US officials told CNN they are convinced someone has targeted American diplomats in Havana with a sophisticated device never deployed before, at least not against US personnel.

Canadian diplomats have suffered similar health problems, according to US and Canadian officials.

Despite the often-empty supermarkets and antagonistic relations with the communist-run government, Cuba for years offered US diplomats a rare benefit: It was safe.

Unlike in many other countries, in Cuba, US Embassy employees didn’t have to worry much about terrorist attacks, kidnapping or even petty crime. The Cuban government’s tight control over the island made Havana one of the safest cities in the world.

Diplomats — especially those Cuba suspected of being spies — might suffer harassment at the hands of the powerful state security apparatus, but there were established lines neither of the Cold War adversaries would cross.

Feature continues here:  Sonic attacks

 

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Senior Spy Specializing in Targeting Americans Assigned as Cuban Ambassador to Canada; Deputy Spy-Master Assigned as Spain’s Ambassador 2

Editor’s Note: Josefina Vidal, suspected of being a “US Targets” officer in the Director of Intelligence (DI), was expelled from the US in 2003 along with 15 other Cuban spy-diplomats. Her Deputy in the Foreign Ministry was Gustavo Machin, also a suspected US Targets officer. Machin was thrown out of the US in retaliation for the Ana Montes spy case. He later served as Cuban Ambassador to Pakistan where he is believed to have overseen Havana’s targeting of US counterterrorism operations in the region. He has now been selected to serve in Madrid as Cuba’s Ambassador. Historically, Mexico, Canada and Spain host the largest Cuban spy centers in the world (outside their three bases in the United States).  “Officially,” DI officers resign from the spy service when they become ambassadors. However, we can expect these two “retired” US Targets officers to have significant and adverse influence over the activities in their host nations. 

 

 

How a Canadian Businessman Lost Everything in Cuba Reply

Sarkis Yacoubian

Sarkis Yacoubian

By Jeff Gray, The Globe and Mail [Canada]

Canadian businessman Sarkis Yacoubian only knew his Cuban interrogator – the Cubans call them “instructors” – as Major Carlito. When they first met in the dim basement of the Havana house where security agents had initially imprisoned Mr. Yacoubian in July, 2011, he says Major Carlito greeted him by grabbing his own crotch.

“If you are expecting that the Canadian embassy is going to come to your help, this is what they are going to get,” Mr. Yacoubian, 54, says his captor warned him. Then, he says, Major Carlito accused him of being a spy, an accusation that would eventually be abandoned before the Canadian was convicted by a Cuban court of corruption charges and expelled last year.

His story, and that of Toronto-area businessman Cy Tokmakjian, who was released from incarceration in Cuba last month after a similar corruption trial, are cautionary tales for would-be investors in Cuba.

However, some say the historic Dec. 17 announcement of Canada-brokered talks to normalize Cuba’s relations with the United States – plus recent moves by leader Raul Castro to liberalize the economy – still has Canadian investors and entrepreneurs interested in the Communist-ruled island.

Despite Major Carlito’s threat, the Canadian embassy did closely monitor’s Mr. Yacoubian’s status as he spent two years in jail before facing any formal charge. And the ambassador attended Mr. Yacoubian’s 2013 trial, which saw him sentenced to nine years in prison and fined $7-million for corruption, tax evasion and doing “economic damage” to Cuba.

Mr. Tokmakjian, 74, spent more than three years in prison. Two of his Canadian employees who had been blocked from leaving Cuba were also recently freed. His Concord, Ont.-based Tokmakjian Group reportedly had a $90-million-a-year business on the island importing vehicles and construction equipment. His assets in Cuba were seized. Mr. Yacoubian, a former employee of Mr. Tokmakjian’s who broke away from his boss to build what he said was a $20-million-a-year business in Cuba bringing in similar products, says all of his assets on the island were also seized.

Article continues here: Sarkis Yacoubian

Cuban Ambassador Accompanies Castro Apologist Stephen Kimber on Book Tour Reply

THURSDAY, MARCH 6 5 p.m. Stephen Kimber, author of ‘What Lies Across the Water: the Real Story of the Cuban Five,’ reads at Harbourfront Library. Cuban Ambassador to Canada Julio Garmendia Pena will accompany Kimber. Open to the public. – See more at: Nanaimo Daily News (British Columbia)

Journalists in The Service of Reds: Engineers of Human Souls 4

Exiles from totalitarian regimes have always been a potential and real threat to the credibility, durability and legitimacy of dictatorships, particularly the Communist variety. These regimes sought to quash exile effectiveness through a round-the-clock dispatch of intelligence assets in aggressive defamation and elimination operations.

By Tania C. Mastrapa

In the United States, we metaphorically abide by the double-edged sword. While America is a haven for those who seek freedom from repressive regimes, we simultaneously provide a forum for supporters of those regimes. Stephen Kimber, an award winning journalist and currently a professor of journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax, represents the latter.

As a writer, Comrade Kimber is what Soviet dictator Josef Stalin called an engineer of human souls – endowed with the power to remold the ideological mentality of his readers. Kimber recently wrote, What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five – a book that justifies agent insertion into the United States by the Cuban regime and (of course) slanders anti-Communist Cuban exiles.

The Washington Post published an Op-Ed by Kimber where he defends the Cuban Five – spies who, among many other illegal acts, were instrumental in the 1996 downing of two Brothers to the Rescue planes over the Florida Straits. The American light aircraft were shot down over international waters by Cuban MiGs firing air-to-air missiles that killed four on board. The Cuban Five were subsequently convicted by a federal jury that did not include any Cuban exiles.

South Florida’s WLRN General Manager John Labonia defended the station’s decision to also provide a platform to Kimber. To not do so would apparently have been dumb and intolerant. He nodded to the sensitivity of the matter and stated, “…the local conversation about Cuba has evolved and become more broad-minded…and that it can accommodate opinions today that might have been too uncomfortable to engage a generation ago.” Have broad-mindedness, objectivity and tolerance ever been demanded of other victims of totalitarianism, such as Jews under the Nazi regime and those who toppled Adolf Hitler? No, because these standards are solely exacted on victims of Communism and the underlying reality is that their lives are allotted a low value, if any at all.

The unbridled statements by journalists and others about Communism’s exiles are certainly beneficial to the oppressors. Thus, those subjected to property confiscation, political arrests and torture are somehow unable to accurately address their homeland’s ills as opposed to those who regurgitate the content of Communist State publications. For example, journalists describe Vietnamese exiles, ad nauseum, as “right-wing” and an “extreme anti-Communist bloc,” whose younger generations are more open-minded. The loved ones of the 16,000 Cambodians who died on orders of Kaing Guek Eav, a.k.a. “Duch,” ought not have had a say in his sentencing, according to international judge Sylvia Cartwright because of the need for objectivity and balance as opposed to victims’ “mob rule.” A group or government that attempts, by any means necessary, to bring freedom to a country is generally lauded as heroic – so long as that country is not under the yoke of Communism. Laotian anti-Communists have been subjected to arrests, bombardments, re-education camps and shootings; but an effort by exiles and sympathizers, labeled by the U.S. government as “mercenaries,” to liberate the country resulted in arrest for many in the United States.

So how did the double standard originate?

Feature continues here: Journalists in the Service of Reds: Engineers of Human Souls

Maduro intento introducir a varios agentes cubanos ilegales en Estados Unidos 2

By Ludmila Vinogradoff, ABC.es Internacional

El presidente de Venezuela quiso «colar» al personal de La Habana en la Asamblea de la ONU. Pero, al final, renunció a participar en ese foro

El presidente de Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, intentó «colar» en Estados Unidos a varios agentes cubanos sin permiso de entrada en el país, pero a los que el mandatario intentó camuflar con pasaportes venezolanos, según supo ABC de fuentes cercanas a la delegación. Maduro quiso introducir a los cubanos durante su viaje a Nueva York con ocasión de la celebración de la Asamblea General de la ONU de esta semana. Pero, finalmente, el mandatario venezolano sorprendió a propios y ajenos con su repentino regreso a Caracas este miércoles.

Un cambio de planes que justificó por su «intenso programa» de actividades callejeras. Anunció el presidente en su cuenta de Twitter:«Haciendo escala y siguiendo el camino a nuestra patria, el miércoles tenemos agenda intensa en la calle». «Trabajo y más trabajo para seguir teniendo Patria, vamos a nuestra Venezuela. Ahora más tarde nos vemos», añadió.
Para hacer más provocadora su visita, Maduro intentó viajar desde China (donde cursaba visita oficial) a Nueva York en un avión de Cubana de Aviación. El pasado martes, el presidente intentó cambiar de avión para quitar hierro al conflicto. Pero ya era tarde. El mandatario bolivariano no pudo estrenarse en el podio donde tanta fama ganó su antecesor, Hugo Chávez, cuando declaró que que olía «a azufre» tras el discurso del expresidente estadounidense George W. Bush.

Retenido en Canada

Durante la jornada del martes, el avión de Nicolás Maduro, con su voluminosa delegación de 120 personas, estuvo retenido en Canadá desde las diez y media de la mañana hasta las cuatro de la tarde. «Estuvieron esperando más de cinco horas dentro del avión, incluido Maduro, porque Canadá rehusaba venderles gasolina ya que el avión era cubano. La empresa Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) envío con urgencia dos aviones Falcón para que pudieran llegar a Nueva York. Pero Maduro tenía tal rabieta que se volvió para Caracas», afirman fuentes conocedoras del caso. Los mensajes de twitter, en los que anunciaba su regreso, los envió desde Canadá.

La numerosa delegación con la que viajó Maduro era de lo más pintoresca. Aparte de doce agentes de seguridad y médicos cubanos, en el cortejo viajaban un «técnico en explosivos»; un «experto en seguridad alimentaria»; un «epidemiólogo»; el hijo del presidente y la seguridad del hijo del presidente; el hijo, la nuera, los nietos, dos amigas y el estilista y peluquero de «la primera comandante» (la mujer de Maduro, Cilia Flores), así como un nutrido grupo de personal de «seguridad médica». La lista de pasajeros debió ser enviada a la ONU y al Departamento de Estado de EE.UU.

Pese a las amenazas de tomar «medidas drásticas» lanzadas por Maduro si les negaban los visados de entrada a los miembros de su delegación, la Administración norteamericana le habría negado el permiso al general Wilmer Barrientos, nuevo ministro del Despacho de la Presidencia y ex jefe del Comando Estratégico Operacional de la Fuerza Armada Bolivariana (Ceofanb) que custodiaba las elecciones.

Lista de cubanos

Entre los miembros cubanos de la delegación oficial que viajaron a China y después intentaron llegar a Nueva York, con carné de identidad extranjero y pasaporte venezolano, figuran Leonardo Nuñez Zamora, Rosendo Julián Zacuta, Julio Marino Domínguez, Mary Monteiga Rodríguez. Como miembros de «seguridad interna» aparecían Giovanny Remond Mederas y Alberto Herrera Socarrás. Como personal de «seguridad médica», Néstor Azcano Gonzalez, Carlos Guilveaux Cala, Danay Herrera Vallejera, Heriberto Rodríguez y Eduardo García Castillo. Además del piloto cubano Guillermo Díaz.

Los servicios de seguridad de las Naciones Unidas pidieron limitar la «caravana venezolana» a sólo cuatro vehículos. Pero la avanzada de seguridad de la comitiva, que viajó la semana pasada a Nueva York, fue de 47 funcionarios y dobló en cantidad el número de vehículos permitidos, según contó el periodista Nelson Bocaranda en su columna «Runrunes».

Gastos millonarios

El diputado opositor Carlos Berrizbeitia calculó para ABC los gastos de Maduro en este viaje a China, que incluyen los de Nueva York, ya tenidos en cuenta por la empresa Citgo, subsidiaria de Petróleos de Venezuela. «En China y Nueva York alquilaron dos pisos de los hoteles más caros (el Hyatt Grand Central en Nueva York), con un gasto de más de 800.000 dólares en hoteles para toda la comitiva. El viaje al final superará los 2,5 millones de dólares», precisa el diputado venezolano.«Maduro, desde que llegó a Miraflores, el 19 de abril, ha gastado más de 8,5 millones de dólares… y eso que es un presidente obrero. Sus viajes al extranjero superan los 85.000 dólares diarios». añade Berrizbeitia.

Breaking News: Spy-Wife Adriana Pérez to Visit Vancouver on Monday; Accompanied by Cuban Ambassador to Canada 1

(Courtesy: Halifax Media Co-op)

*la versión en español sigue la versión en Inglés*

A special evening organized by United Steelworkers featuring…

ADRIANA PÉREZ (Wife of Gerardo Hernández one of the Cuban 5 held in U .S. jails)

HIS EXCELLENCY MR. JULIO GARMENDÍA PEÑA (Cuban Ambassador to Canada)

MONDAY APRIL 15, 2013
6:00pm-10:00pm
“Stanley Park Ballroom”
Westin Bayshore Hotel
1601 Bayshore Drive
Downtown Vancouver, Canada

Please join us in welcoming two honoured guests to Vancouver, Canada, Adriana Pérez and Mr. Julio Garmendía Peña. Adriana Pérez is the wife of Gerardo Hernández, one of the Cuban 5. Gerardo is currently serving two life sentences plus 15 years in a United States jail accused of “conspiracy to commit espionage” and “conspiracy to commit murder”. However, Gerardo‘s mission in the United States was only to protect his country, Cuba, against a vicious campaign of terrorism coming out of Miami since 1959 that has led to over 3,400 deaths in Cuba.

Adriana has been married to Gerardo since 1988, but he has spent the last 14 years of their marriage in a U.S. jail cell. In those 14 years, Adriana has repeatedly been denied entry to the United States and has not been able to visit her husband. Yet, with courage and determination, she and the families of the Cuban 5 have been speaking out to defend their innocent loved ones and demand their freedom.

On Monday April 15, we invite you to come and hear directly from Adriana about the case of the Cuban 5. We will also be honoured by the presences of Mr. Julio Garmendía Peña, Cuban Ambassador to Canada, who will share his perspectives on this important case for the Cuban government and people.

For more information on the case of the Cuban 5 please visit:
http://www.freethe5vancouver.ca
http://www.antiterroristas.cu
http://www.freethefive.org
http://www.thecuban5.org

Event organized by:
UNITED STEELWORKERS
http://www.usw.ca

Event sponsored by:
VANCOUVER COMMUNITIES IN SOLIDARITY WITH CUBA
FREE THE CUBAN 5 COMMITTEE – VANCOUVER
CANADIAN-CUBAN FRIENDSHIP ASSOCIATION – VANCOUVER

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

La esposa de uno de los 5 Cubanos y el Embajador de Cuba en Canadá visitan Vancouver!

Una noche especial organizada por United Steelworkers con presentación de …

ADRIANA PÉREZ

Esposa de Gerardo Hernández uno de los 5 Cubanos presos en cárceles de EE.UU.

SU EXCELENCIA EL SR. JULIO GARMENDIA PEÑA
Embajador de Cuba en Canadá

Lunes 15 de abril 2013
6:00 pm
“Stanley Park Ballroom”
Westin Bayshore Hotel
1601 Bayshore Drive
Centro de Vancouver, Canadá

Por favor, únase a nosotros en dar la bienvenida a dos invitados de honor a Vancouver, Canadá, Adriana Pérez y elSr. Julio Garmendia Peña. Adriana Pérez es la esposa de Gerardo Hernández, uno de los 5 Cubanos. Gerardo está cumpliendo dos cadenas perpetuas más 15 años en una cárcel de Estados Unidos acusado de “Conspiración para cometer espionaje” y “conspiración para cometer asesinato”. Sin embargo, la misión de Gerardo en los Estados Unidos era sólo para proteger a su país, Cuba, contra una feroz campaña de terrorismo cometida de Miami desde 1959, que ha llevado a más de 3.400 muertes en Cuba.

Adriana ha estado casada con Gerardo desde 1988, pero el ha pasado los últimos 14 años de su matrimonio enuna celda de una prisión en EE.UU. Durante esos 14 años, Adriana ha sidoreiteradamente negada la entrada a los Estados Unidos y no ha podido visitar a su marido. Sin embargo, con coraje y determinación, ella y los familiares de los 5 Cubanos han abogado para defender a sus seres queridos inocentes y para exigir su libertad.

El lunes 15 de abril, les invitamos a venir y escuchar directamente de Adriana sobre el caso de los 5 Cubanos. También tendremos el honor de tener la presencia del Sr. Julio Garmendía Peña, Embajador de Cuba en Canadá, quien compartirá su punto de vista sobre este importante caso para el gobierno y el pueblo cubano.

Para más información sobre el
caso de los 5 Cubanos visite:
http://www.freethe5vancouver.ca
http://www.antiterroristas.cu
http://www.freethefive.org
http://www.thecuban5.org

Evento organizado por:
UNITED STEELWORKERS
http://www.usw.ca

Evento patrocinado por:
VANCOUVER COMUNIDADES EN SOLIDARIDAD CON CUBA
COMITÉ FREE THE CUBAN 5 – VANCOUVER
ASOCIACIÓN DE AMISTAD CANADIENSE-CUBANA – VANCOUVER

Editor’s Note: Hernández’s wife, Adriana Pérez O’Connor, was still in training as a Directorate of Intelligence (DI) asset when the Wasp Network (La Red Avispa) was brought down in September 1998. She and her children were deported and permanently banned re-entry visas. Her mission had been to courier messages and material between Havana and Miami.

The View From Canada: It’s Time to Take Cuba off the Terror List 2

By Peter McKenna in the Winnipeg Free Press

In some ways, the U.S.-Cuba relationship — even under the presidency of Barack Obama — is still locked in a Cold War time warp. For a host of illogical reasons, including Havana’s 2009 imprisonment of Alan Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development who acted illegally in the country, Washington can’t seem to bring itself to break diplomatic bread with the Cuban government.

But there is some chatter in the halls of the U.S. State Department that newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry is seriously contemplating removing Cuba from an arbitrary list of countries that export or promote terrorism. By law, he has to make that determination and recommendation to the president before his department publishes its annual report on terrorism April 30.

Keeping Cuba on that list prevents dual-use military technology, which could include advanced medical equipment, from reaching the island. It also compels Washington to vigorously oppose any loans to Cuba from international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Interestingly, Kerry has a record of endorsing moderation in Washington’s irrational and punitive Cuba policy, including his unease with millions of U.S. dollars for secretive democracy-building programs in Cuba. He no doubt believes the time is ripe, as is the political situation in south Florida, for the U.S. to work toward normalizing its relations with the Cuban government.

Cuba has been on the terror list since the list was first pulled together back in 1982. At that time, the reason for doing so was based on Havana’s material support for revolutionary movements and guerrillas in various Latin American countries throughout the 1960s and 1970s. That support no longer exists.

In the case of Cuba’s ties to the struggling Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Spain’s Basque Homeland and Liberty (ETA) movement, there is no evidence that it has provided them with arms or paramilitary training. In fact, the Cubans have recently sought to curtail their relationship with ETA members residing on the island.

Further, Cuba is now playing an important mediation role in seeking to resolve the long-standing internal conflict between the FARC and the Colombian government. No matter how you slice it, the rationale for not delisting Cuba is pretty thin.

As a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times opined: “By all accounts, Cuba remains on the list — alongside Iran, Sudan and Syria — because it disagrees with the United States’ approach to fighting international terrorism, not because it supports terrorism.”

It’s worth mentioning that the Cuban government strongly condemned the terror attacks of 2001, offered to send medical supplies and health-care professionals in their aftermath, and acquiesced in Washington’s plan to house suspected terrorists at its Guantanamo Bay naval facility.

Surely if North Korea could be removed from the bad-boy list in 2008 by the former George W. Bush administration — and that Pakistan has never made it onto the list, even though it had sheltered Osama bin Laden for years — it is long overdue to scratch Cuba’s name off.

Cubans have certainly strengthened their case for doing so under the leadership of Raúl Castro, who has introduced economic and social reforms, permitted Cubans to travel freely abroad (including vocal dissidents), opened a constructive dialogue with the Catholic Church and released dozens of political prisoners.

The Canadian government, fresh from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s visit to Havana, should be using its good offices to convince the Americans to delist Cuba. If successful, it would have the salutary effect of bolstering Canada’s brand and profile in the region — a wise move, given that the Harper government has made the Americas a centrepiece of its foreign-policy thrust.

Removing Cuba from the terror list would also go some way toward resetting the U.S.-Cuba relationship on a proper diplomatic footing. This symbolically important step, in conjunction with a series of other confidence-building measures, such as the release of Gross, might eventually lead to the lifting of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba and restore Washington’s credibility in the hemisphere. Such a move would obviously be in the best interests of Cuba, the U.S. and the wider international community.

Peter McKenna is professor and chair of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island and the editor of Canada Looks South: In Search of an Americas Policy.

Castro Apologist Seeks Obama Support For Cuban Five 2

Letter to Obama: Alan Gross not a “hostage”

Courtesy:  Tracey Eaton – Along the Malecon

 

Below is the text of an open letter from Canadian journalist Steven Kimber to President Barack Obama. He is writing a book called, “What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five.”

 

Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States of America

The White House

Washington DC 20500

 

Dear President Obama,

This is my first ever letter to an American president. That’s not just because I’m not an American citizen. I’m also a journalist, and journalists are not in the habit of writing letters to heads of governments.

But having spent the past three years researching the case of the Cuban Five, I believe I have an obligation to write to you.

The fact is American journalism hasn’t done a very good job of explaining to the American public the case of the five Cuban intelligence agents who have been incarcerated in the U.S. since 1998. As a result, your administration has mostly managed to avoid dealing with the issue at all or, when forced to comment, responding with the tired, rote rhetoric of the Cold War era.

But the case of the Cuban Five has recently been brought back into the public spotlight because of Alan Gross, the USAID subcontractor currently serving a 15-year jail term in Cuba for bringing satellite communication equipment into that country.

The media reporting of his case has been equally problematic, mostly parroting your own State Department line that Gross is a “humanitarian” who was arrested while trying to help Havana’s tiny Jewish community communicate with the outside world, and is now being held “hostage” by Havana.

You know that’s not true. So, of course, should the media. After all, it was Desmond Butler, a foreign affairs reporter for the Associated Press—a news agency subscribed to by most American media and unlikely ever to be mistaken for a tool of the Cuban regime—who documented the facts of the case.

Alan Gross was “paid a half-million dollars” by USAID, your government’s “democracy promoting” agency, to smuggle sophisticated communications equipment into Cuba. That technology included Internet satellite phones capable of avoiding detection and spy-quality SIM cards “most frequently” used by the Defense Department and the CIA.

The goal of all of this was not to assist Cuba’s Jewish community communicate, as your government has insisted (the Jewish community already had Internet connectivity) but to promote regime change—to overthrow the government of Cuba.

Gross’s own reports make clear he knew he was engaged in “very risky business” and that discovery of what he was up to “will be catastrophic.”

That said, Alan Gross’s family and friends, not surprisingly, want him freed.

Just as the Cubans want the Five—who are considered national heroes in their homeland—freed.

Your government’s unblinking response has been that there is simply “no equivalence.” The Cubans were trained intelligence agents convicted of trying to steal military secrets and conspiracy to murder four innocent civilians killed in the shootdown of two unarmed Brothers to the Rescue aircraft in 1996. By contrast, the American argument goes, Alan Gross was just a humanitarian do-gooder.

We now know Alan Gross was much more than that.

Story continues here:  http://alongthemalecon.blogspot.com/2013/01/letter-to-obama-alan-gross-not-hostage.html

Feds: Medicare Millions Moved to Cuba Through Canada, Trinidad and Mexico 1

Federal court records reveal that a Florida money-laundering network moved Medicare millions to Cuba through Canada, Trinidad and, now, Mexico.

By Jay Weaver, JWeaver@MiamiHerald.com

A South Florida money-laundering network secretly transferred more than $30 million in illegal Medicare profits through a remittance firm with shell companies in not only Canada and Trinidad, but also in Mexico, according to court records filed Monday.

Evidence of the widening network into Mexico surfaced in the federal plea agreement of a one-time Miami medical equipment provider who pleaded guilty Friday to his role in the money-laundering conspiracy. Kirian Vega, 35, who owned Ozain Pharmacy in another person’s name, billed more than $600,000 in false claims to the taxpayer-funded Medicare program and received about $400,000. According to the plea agreement, Vega admitted he used a Florida check-cashing store to launder $124,000 of the tainted proceeds in 2009 through the shell companies of the offshore remittance company, Caribbean Transfers.

Court documents show that money was wired to Turismo dos Polos in Mexico, which transferred a portion — $45,000 — to another shell company, Communications Sophie, in Trinidad. That money was then sent to an unidentified travel agency in Cuba, records show. Last month, Caribbean Transfers was accused in an indictment of financing the complex money-laundering ring that moved millions in stolen Medicare money, mostly from South Florida, through shell companies in Canada and Trinidad and finally into Cuba’s banking system. That revelation came to light in the case of a now-convicted check-cashing store owner who was first believed to be at the center of the federal case. It marked the first time that investigators traced tainted Medicare proceeds to Cuba’s state-controlled bank. Caribbean Transfers appears to have played the dominant role in the unprecedented money-laundering scheme.

In October, prosecutors filed conspiracy charges against the founder of the Caribbean-based company, Jorge Emilio Perez, who is believed to be hiding in the Dominican Republic. Also charged: Vega and Felipe Ruiz, 38, one-time operator of two Miami medical equipment businesses under others’ names. Ruiz was charged with laundering at least $1.2 million through the check-cashing store and remittance company. The information about Caribbean Transfers, which prosecutors say is licensed by the Cuban government, was disclosed during Ruiz’s bond hearing last month. Ruiz, a Cuban-born U.S. citizen, was denied bail because a judge found he might flee to Cuba or another country.

In June, the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami made national headlines when prosecutors charged Oscar L. Sanchez, owner of the Naples check-cashing store, with conspiring to launder tens of millions of Medicare dollars via Canada and Trinidad into Cuba’s national bank. By late August, Sanchez, 47, had pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with authorities and repay the U.S. government $10 million, consisting primarily of residential investment properties he acquired with his wife in Southwest Florida.

The U.S. attorney’s office has said it has no evidence that the Cuban government was part of the laundering scheme, and Cuban officials have denied any involvement. Sanchez, also a Cuban-born U.S. citizen, was indicted on the single conspiracy charge of playing a pivotal role in laundering the profits of 70 South Florida medical companies that falsely billed Medicare for $374.4 million and were paid $70.7 million.

Editor’s Note:  While there is currently no publicly available information connecting Cuban Intelligence to Medicare fraud, the techniques used by the indicted criminals mimics perfectly the procedures Havana’s five spy services have used for the past half century to create and run front companies.