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Cuban-Americans sue French bank over Castro-era nationalisation

Friday, July 12, 2019

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MIAMI, United States (AFP) — The Cuban-American heirs of a bank nationalised by Cuba's communist Government have filed suit against France's Societe generale (Soc Gen) for allegedly profiting from the confiscated property.

The Banco Nunez Cuba(BNC), then the second-largest bank in Cuba, was nationalised in 1960 by Fidel Castro's Government and taken over by the state's National Bank of Cuba along with other private banking institutions.

In the suit filed Wednesday in Miami, the heirs of Carlos Nunez and Pura Galves, the bank's owners, are seeking US$792 million in compensation from the French bank.

The lawsuit is one in an expected wave of legal actions under a change in US policy, in May, by President Donald Trump amid stepped up American pressure on Havana.

The change activated a provision of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act that allows Cuban-Americans to recover damages from companies that do business with the Cuban state.

The provision had been waived by every previous US president to avoid conflicts with friendly, mainly European, countries with companies active in Cuba.

The Nunez-Galves heirs argue that the family bank was worth US$7.8 million at the time it was taken over, which they say amounted to 10.5 per cent of the capital of BNC.

“By engaging in commercial activity with BNC, SocGen received a profit of US$1.34 billion,” the suit said.

“Because Banco Nunez retains a claim to ten-and-one-half per cent of BNC, SocGen's activities constitute 'trafficking' in Banco Nunez's 'property,' as defined by Helms-Burton,” it said.

Contacted by AFP, Societe Generale had no comment on the lawsuit.


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