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Banks Need not Act on Judgment Against Cuba

MANHATTAN (CN) - Families trying to collect a judgment against Cuba for the torture and assassination of their relatives failed to obtain relief from the 2nd Circuit.

The ruling places a new hurdle in front of families awarded massive judgments against Cuba and its officials under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002. It comes with regard to a spate of cases brought years ago in the Miami-Dade area.

Jeannette Fuller Hausler brought the first of the lawsuits on behalf of her brother Robert Otis Fuller, who she says was executed by firing squad in October 1960 after a sham trial rife with evidence gleaned from torture.

His successors won a $454 million federal court judgment in 2008.

Aldo Vera Jr. secured a $49 million award for the assassination that his father, Aldo Vera Sr., a high-ranking Cuban police officer who defected to form a counterrevolutionary group in Puerto Rico.

The largest verdict, tipping the scales at $2.79 billion, went to Alfredo Villoldo and Gustavo Villoldo whose family member, Gustavo Villoldo Argilagos, allegedly killed himself because of the Cuban government's "relentless torture and harassment."

Cuba targeted Villoldo because of his family fortune and role in leading a mission in Bolivia to track down guerrilla leader Che Guevera, his family says.

The families sought to collect the money from Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria and other entities that fought off the actions on jurisdiction grounds.

Though U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein dismissed the banks' protests in August, the 2nd Circuit vacated that decision over an apparent technicality on Monday.

Collection of an award hinges on a family's ability to show that the electronic-fund transfers, or EFTs, belong to Cuba.

New York law holds, however, that EFTs are "neither the property of the originator nor the beneficiary while briefly in the possession of an intermediary bank," the eight-page opinion states.

The three-judge panel was unanimous that "no Cuban entity transmitted any of the blocked EFTs in this case directly to the blocking bank."

"As a result, neither Cuba nor its agents or instrumentalities have any property interest in the EFTs that are blocked at the garnishee banks," the unsigned ruling from Judges Peter Hall, Susan Carney and Gerard Lynch states.

A lawyer for the families did not immediately return a request for comment.


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