MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – The online travel company Expedia will pay $325,000 to settle federal government allegations that it appears to have violated US sanctions against Cuba by improperly helping people travel on the island or between the island and places other than the US.
The Treasury Department announced the agreement and settlements with two other companies on Thursday.
Expedia Group Inc., which is based in Bellevue, Washington, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last week, the Trump administration announced travel restrictions that effectively banned cruise ships and private plane flights between the U.S. and Cuba, reversing an Obama administration easing of rules in 2016. The Trump administration said it took the step to deny Cuba money it gets from American tourists to force it to stop supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose 2018 election the U.S. regards as fraudulent.
The case Expedia settled, however, dates to a period between April 2011 and October 2014. The Treasury Department said that the online travel agency helped 2,221 people — including some Cuban nationals — with travel services that violated U.S. sanctions on the island country.
The government said Expedia disclosed the apparent violations. It also credited the company for taking remedial steps to strengthen compliance with U.S. economic sanctions and for cooperating with Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which handles the Cuba-sanctions regulations.
But, the Treasury Department said, despite being a sophisticated international travel company, Expedia “failed to exercise a minimal degree of caution” to avoid violating anti-Cuba sanctions. It said that after acquiring a foreign travel company, Expedia failed for 15 months to tell the company that it was subject to U.S. law.
Separately, Treasury said that Hotelbeds USA, a Florida-based subsidiary of Spain’s Hotelbeds Group, agreed to a $222,705 settlement for helping 703 people with unauthorized Cuba-related travel services from December 2011 to June 2014.
The department also announced a $40,320 settlement with Cubasphere Inc. and an unnamed person for providing travel help to 104 people on four trips to and within Cuba from December 2013 to February 2014.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)