Bay of Pigs Vet, Families Seek Billions From Cuba
MIAMI — Nov 23, 2014, 11:12 AM ET
By CURT ANDERSON AP Legal Affairs Writer
Since the day in 1959 that Cuban government agents blackmailed his
father into committing suicide, Gustavo Villoldo has been on an
anti-Castro mission that included co-piloting a B-26 bomber during the
ill-fated 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, infiltrating Cuba for the CIA
numerous times and tracking down Fidel Castro lieutenant Ernesto "Che"
Guevara in Bolivia in 1967.
Now, at age 78, Villoldo is fresh off another clash with the Cuban
government, this time with a tentative success: He and family members of
other two men ? American Bobby Fuller and Cuban Aldo Vera ? each won
separate lawsuits in Florida seeking billions of dollars in damages
combined from the Cuban government, which defaulted after never
responding to the lawsuits.
"Money to me in this case, it doesn't mean anything. My family tragedy
is sacred ground," Villoldo said in a recent interview. "I am continuing
to fight Castro in a different arena."
The fight now, though, is less with Cuba than it is with the banks where
the U.S. Treasury froze Cuban government assets that the families now
want to seize. The banks are resisting turning the money over, insisting
the U.S. families have yet to prove they should be allowed to seize it.
Earlier this year, Manhattan U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled
that the Florida decisions must be honored as attorneys for Villoldo and
the others try to get at accounts with ties to Cuba held by the 19
banks, including Bank of America, Barclays Bank, Citibank, Wells Fargo
and JPMorgan Chase.
"The judgments granted by the Florida circuit court in favor of the
plaintiffs and against Cuba are entitled to full faith and credit,"
Hellerstein wrote in an Aug. 22 order.
At stake is as much as $3.5 billion; the families have agreed to share
any proceeds they get out of the New York accounts.
Villoldo attorney Andrew Hall, who previously represented Watergate
figure John Erlichman and families of sailors killed in the USS Cole
terror attack, said the Hellerstein ruling was a watershed moment in the
case. The exact contents of the accounts and the account holders are
sealed by court order, and the legal question now involves whether the
money truly belongs to Cuba.
"That's the battle: Is this Cuba's money or is this someone else's
money?" Hall said. "This is the green light that opens the door for us."
In a nutshell, the money was halted by the Treasury Department as it
passed back and forth electronically through the New York banks between
entities in Cuba and banks in other countries overseas.
Based on the rulings so far, Hall estimated more than $20 million could
be paid out by the banks within the next six months. Another $20 million
to $40 million, he said, could be obtained depending on upcoming legal
decisions on precisely when an electronic funds transfer, or EFT, should
be considered Cuban property that could be seized.
In October, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that EFTs were
subject to seizure only if Cuba itself, or a state-owned entity,
transmitted the funds directly to the bank. Lawyers on all sides are
still sorting out that decision's impact. An attorney for several big
banks, James Kerr, suggested that no money be turned over to Villoldo
and the other families right away.
Source: Bay of Pigs Vet, Families Seek Billions From Cuba - ABC News -