Chicago - Chicago U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have been under siege lately with a record number of illegal Cuban cigar shipments arriving from Switzerland at the O'Hare Airport International Mail Facility.
Over the last two weeks, CBP officers in Chicago have already seized more than 30,000 Cuban cigars with more than 70,000 more of the popular contraband already detained. CBP officers seize imported Cuban cigars or anything of Cuban origin because of the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
The Cuban Assets Control Regulations were issued by the U.S. government in 1963 under the Trading with the Enemy Act in response to hostile actions by the Cuban government. The regulations state, no goods or services of Cuban origin may be imported into the U.S. either directly or through third countries. It is currently illegal to import Cuban cigars or anything else of Cuban origin into the U.S. without an official license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control under the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Recently, in a Nov. 8 statement on increased security measures by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the Department placed a ban on small parcels over 16 ounces flown on passenger aircraft. The result has been an increase in European mail arriving inbound on cargo aircraft to Chicago. Upon investigation, CBP located several on-line retailers in Switzerland who sell genuine Cuban cigars and are shipping orders to the U.S. despite the current embargo.
"Everyone wants to know what happens to the cigars that are seized," said David Murphy, Chicago Director of Field Operations. "According to OFAC regulations, CBP officers are required to seize, forfeit and destroy all Cuban cigars and all other Cuban imported products. Our officers stationed at CBP mail facilities routinely discover and seize a variety of contraband arriving from all over the world, but this is the first time in Chicago we have seen this level of activity involving illegal cigars."
CBP International Mail Facilities are located in Chicago; Los Angeles; San Francisco; San Juan, P.R.; Seattle; Honolulu, Hawaii; Jamaica, N.Y.; Miami; Jersey City, N.J. and Charlotte Amalie, V.I.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.