The online travel giant, Expedia, recently agreed to pay more than $325,000 to the U.S. government to settle allegations that it improperly helped people travel inside Cuba or between the island and places other than the U.S.
According to the U.S. government, the travel company appears to have violated new U.S. sanctions against Cuba. The Trump administration’s recently announced travel restrictions have effectively banned cruise ships and private plane flights between the U.S. and Cuba, reversing the Obama administration’s easing of the rules in 2016.
The Trump administration said it took the step to deny Cuba the 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.
According to the government, Expedia disclosed the apparent violations, and has taken remedial steps to strengthen compliance with U.S. economic sanctions and is cooperating with the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which handles the Cuba-sanctions regulations.
The Treasury Department said, however, that despite being a sophisticated international travel company, Expedia “failed to exercise a minimal degree of caution” to avoid violating anti-Cuba sanctions. It also added that Expedia failed for 15 months to tell the company that it was subject to U.S. law.
The Treasury Department announced the agreement, and settlements with two other companies, last Thursday. 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.