ExxonMobil sues Cuban companies for nationalised assets

Exxon is one of the companies born out of the now-defunct Standard Oil, whose refinery in Havana was one of the first American entities nationalised by Castro. (AFP pic) 

HAVANA: US giant ExxonMobil has filed a lawsuit against Cuba’s state-owned oil company and a major business group for what it called “unlawful trafficking” of its assets after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

The suit, filed Thursday in federal court in Washington, seeks US$280 million from Cuba-Petroleo (Cupet) and Cimex, which operates service stations on the island nation.

The lawsuit from America’s biggest oil producer came as the administration of US President Donald Trump lifted the suspension of Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act.

The provision allows anyone whose assets were seized after the revolution to sue Cuban individuals and businesses profiting from the former holdings.

It had been suspended by all previous US presidents to avoid causing friction with allies, some of whom view it as overstepping American jurisdiction.

Exxon said in the suit it was seeking compensation “for property that was expropriated by the Fidel Castro regime in 1960, including oil refineries and service stations, which are still in use today even though Plaintiff has never received any compensation for this property.”

Exxon is one of the companies born out of the now-defunct Standard Oil, whose refinery in Havana was one of the first American entities nationalised by Castro.

The refinery is currently operated by Cupet.

Exxon merged with Mobil in 1988.