Donald Trump’s hotel company broke the Cuban embargo by spending tens of thousands of dollars exploring business opportunities on the island in 1998, according to Newsweek report published Thursday.
Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald reported that Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts paid at least $68,000 to a consulting firm to develop business opportunities in Cuba under the guise of charitable activity. The company funneled the money through a consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corporation, as such unapproved spending was illegal at the time.
Executives at the Trump company were made aware of the requirement for approval from the Office of Foreign Asset Control before spending any money in Cuba, and yet they surreptitiously spent the money anyway, apparently without the proper government license, Eichenwald reported.
Representatives of Trump’s campaign and the Trump Organization, as well as Richard Fields, who was in charge of Seven Arrows in 1998, did not respond to requests for comment on Eichenwald’s story.
An anonymous former Trump executive told Eichenwald that Trump himself was aware of the Cuba trip, which came just months before he announced his intention to seek the nomination for president of the Reform Party. At his first campaign stop, in Miami, he pledged to maintain an embargo against Cuba until Fidel Castro was out of power, an appeal to Florida’s large Cuban-American community.
Eichenwald reported that Trump also used Seven Arrows consultants to advise the payments of nearly $39,000 to Florida politicians in support of what was called the Gaming Project, an effort to legalize gambling in the state.
These payments came up in a Republican presidential primary debate, when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) accused Trump of trying to buy influence in Florida.
“Totally false,’’ Trump responded at the debate. “I would have gotten it.”