FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, file photo, a building housing Expedia is seen in Bellevue, Wash. Expedia has agreed to pay more than $325,000 to settle U.S. government allegations that it improperly helped people travel inside Cuba or between the island and places other than the United States. The Treasury Department announced the agreement and settlements with several other companies on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

US says Expedia pays $325,000 over Cuban travel allegations

June 13, 2019 - 8:07 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Expedia has agreed to pay more than $325,000 to settle U.S. government allegations that it improperly helped people travel inside Cuba or between the island and places other than the United States.

The government said that the online travel company appears to have violated U.S. sanctions against Cuba.

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.

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