Report: Treasury looks into firm that set up Beyonce, Jay-Z Cuba trip

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is reportedly investigating a New York-based company to see whether it followed U.S. law when it arranged a trip to Cuba for Beyonce and Jay-Z.

According to The New York Times, a company called Academic Arrangements Abroad arranged the trip, and allowed the two music superstars to use its license allowing travel to Cuba.

The Times said the two traveled under a people-to-people license, which allows travel to Cuba as long as the travelers stick to an itinerary that leans heavily on meetings with civil society groups in Cuba and other Cuban citizens, and avoids meetings with Cuban government officials.

{mosads}Academic Arrangements Abroad declined to confirm that the two celebrities and Obama supporters visited Cuba using their license, and OFAC has said it does not comment on specific licenses.

One source with expertise on the U.S. government’s system of Cuba travel licensing said OFAC will likely ask the company for copies of the travel itineraries that Beyonce and Jay-Z followed. These itineraries are usually written up and kept by companies like Academic Arrangements Abroad that have extensive experience in licensed travel to Cuba.

Once OFAC has these itineraries, and possibly other details on the trip, it will likely make a decision as to whether the visit fits in with the requirements of a people-to-people license.

The trip was originally reported as one in which the couple celebrated their fifth-year wedding anniversary. That prompted supporters of the tight U.S. travel rules to call on OFAC to examine the trip to be sure it wasn’t simple tourism, which is prohibited under those rules.

The Times story indicates that OFAC may be able to make a finding that the couple complied with the license. Among other things, it says Beyonce danced with children at a children’s theater group, and met with teachers at an art institute.

Observers have noted that OFAC has come down hard on companies that they find to be abusing their authority to let people travel to Cuba under their license.

The trip prompted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to call on the Obama administration to clearly spell out how it determines what makes a trip tourism, and what makes it acceptable under a people-to-people license. Republicans have argued that tourism just gives the Cuban government more access to hard currency, which Rubio said helps a “cruel, repressive and murderous regime.”

“Since their inception, the Obama Administration’s ‘people to people’ cultural exchange programs have been abused by tourists who have no interest in the Cuban people’s freedom and either don’t realize or don’t care that they’re essentially funding the regime’s systematic trampling of people’s human rights,” Rubio said on Monday.

“According to recent news reports, Jay-Z and Beyonce’s Cuba trip, which the regime seized on for propaganda purposes, was fully licensed by the Treasury Department,” he said. “If true, the Obama administration should explain exactly how trips like these comply with U.S. law and regulations governing travel to Cuba and it should disclose how many more of these trips they have licensed.”

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