U.S. settles with Airbnb over alleged Cuba violations

Airbnb has agreed to pay a fine to settle alleged violations of U.S. government sanctions on Cuba, the Treasury Department announced Jan. 3. 

The company has agreed to pay $91,172, according to a statement from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a division of the Treasury Department. Airbnb was facing civil liability for violations, including accepting reservations from guests traveling to the island outside the current 12 authorized categories and failing to keep certain records.

Under current U.S. regulations, Americans can travel to Cuba if they fit in one of 12 authorized categories, such as family visits, educational and religious activities, some athletic competitions, support for the Cuban people and humanitarian projects. Travel for other professional activities, such as journalism or research is also permitted. Travel for tourism activities is not permitted. 

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OFAC said the potential fine for Airbnb’s violations was $600,000 but was lowered because Airbnb disclosed potential violations and cooperated with the agency.

In its statement, OFAC said Airbnb’s actions “undermined” U.S. foreign policy.

“This action highlights the risks associated with entering new commercial markets, particularly one that has elevated sanctions risks such as Cuba,” the OFAC statement said.

Airbnb, which launched its platform in Cuba in 2015, has since instituted policies and procedures to improve compliance with U.S. sanctions, OFAC said. The company now prevents Cuba residents from using the platform as guests and has a screening process to verify Cuban hosts are not government officials or members of the Communist Party, according to OFAC.

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