The online travel service Expedia has been hit with a lawsuit for trafficking in stolen property in Cuba. Expedia has been selling hotel bookings at the Barcelo Solymar hotel on Varadero beach, run by the Spanish hotelier Barcelo and built on beachfront lots stolen by the Castro dictatorship from its rightful owners.
Diego Trinidad, a Cuban American whose family owns one of those lots, has filed a lawsuit against Expedia for “unlawful trafficking” of his parent’s stolen home and providing no compensation to its rightful owners.
A Cuban-American heir to a house on Varadero beach that was confiscated by the Cuban government and then demolished to build a hotel has sued Expedia on Friday for “trafficking with stolen property.”
The lawsuit, filed in federal court of Miami under the Helms-Burton Act, is the first one involving the use of real state and could set a precedent to follow for thousands of Cubans who lost their homes after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.
According to the lawsuit, Diego Trinidad’s parents’ house was facing the sea, in the famous resort of Varadero, between streets 72 and 73, where the Barceló Solimar hotel is currently located. The plaintiff’s parents fled Cuba in 1960, and the Castro government confiscated the house. In the 1990s, the government built a hotel where Trinidad’s and nearby homes had been.
Trinidad accuses Expedia of “unlawful trafficking” with its property as the travel site offered reservations at the hotel without providing compensation. Since Expedia did not stop its activities in the 30 days after being notified, Trinidad is asking for triple damages.
An Expedia search from the United States indicates that the site no longer offers the possibility to make reservations at that hotel.
This is not the first time Expedia has run into trouble for its business dealings in socialist Cuba. The online travel giant was also named in another lawsuit for trafficking in a stolen hotel in Cuba run by Melia. And this past June the U.S. Treasury Department fined Expedia over $300,000 for violating U.S. sanctions through its sale of Cuba tours.
When you do business with criminal and corrupt regimes, sooner or later, it catches up to you.