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Chicago Customs Seizes 100,000 Cuban Cigars

Gregory Mottola
Posted: December 6, 2010

If you are waiting for your shipment of Cuban cigars to arrive from Switzerland, there's a good chance that you won't receive them. Chicago Customs and Border Protection has confiscated an estimated 100,000 Cuban cigars shipped directly from Switzerland.

"It started on November 8 after the Department of Homeland Security decided that no mail over 16 ounces can travel as cargo on passenger airlines," said Brian Bell, public affairs officer for CBP. "Mail from Swiss post used to fly on passenger airplanes. When that stopped, the mail was shipped as freight on cargo aircraft."

This new classification meant more packages on less planes and closer scrutiny of incoming packages as they arrived on pallets for inspection. According to the official press release, CBP located several online retailers in Switzerland who sell genuine Cuban cigars and are shipping orders to the United States despite the current embargo.

"It seems that there are numerous online retailers with shops based out of Switzerland," said Bell. "We normally confiscate 10 to 12 shipments per week of cigars, but no one has ever seen this kind of volume anywhere, except maybe in Cuba. There's usually a green tab right on the box that says 'cigars.'"

According to Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations, CBP officers are required to seize, forfeit and destroy all Cuban cigars and all other Cuban imported products.

For more on the story, see tomorrow' s Cigar Insider.

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Comments   34 comment(s)

Christian A December 6, 2010 6:28pm ET

It is Christmas and the Feds need gifts.

Rick Hilton — Coventry, Rhode Island, USA,  —  December 6, 2010 6:32pm ET

When will this cuban nonsense end?

jeff yarchin — Blowing Rock, North Carolina, United States,  —  December 6, 2010 7:21pm ET

We can visit and spend money in China, Russia and Vietnam but not Cuba. Makes no sense.

Steve Jensen December 6, 2010 8:05pm ET

The embargo will ONLY end when you call or write your elected officials to do so.

Make a difference and act today!

Dee December 6, 2010 8:55pm ET

BOTL unite! Contact you elected official. This double standard must end! The Embargo is only symbolic, I am free to visit communist china but only relatives can visit Cuba or visit there on a special visa. I want to sell goods to the island in this economy. We need elected friends of the leaf! If the Tea Party can do so can all of us!

Andy Orth — Aurora, IL, USA,  —  December 7, 2010 12:06am ET

Time to change sources.

Taylor Franklin December 7, 2010 2:32am ET

This is tobacco, not heroin.

Simon Cathcart December 7, 2010 7:47am ET

you know i was looking at a fantastic video on youtube about Cuba in the 1930's, everyone was clean, aspirational and wearing really nice clothing and going out to dinner and the economy looked healthy. You see it today and they're wearing crappy old ripped t-shirts, poverty is rife and the country is hated by its biggest and closet neighbour while its struggling to get out from underneath the worst of all regemes. I'll be your average cuban is thinking "thanks for nothin' world".

Nick Mueller December 7, 2010 8:03am ET

I'm with Steve J.
Make sure you write to the pricks.

Tom December 7, 2010 8:16am ET

I guess Homeland Security will be smoking Cubans all holiday season. You can't tell me those clowns are not smoking them. I support lifting the embargo but for the cigars ONLY.

Philip Hensley — Cary, NC, USA,  —  December 7, 2010 11:33am ET

Don't waste time writing your regime representatives. They don't care what you think. The embargo will never end as long as the regime and it's financial supporters continue to profit from it.

Kevin Michaels December 7, 2010 8:16pm ET

Kevin Michaels from KM CIGARS says:
Wow! Now US customs agents know the difference between fake Cuban cigars and the genuine article, they have come a long way indeed!

John Berard — Summit, NJ, USA,  —  December 7, 2010 9:33pm ET

The Cuban embargo nonsense will end when our elected officials will stop listening to the stupid Cubans in Miami. They're the ones who insist the embargo must continue.

stantine972 December 7, 2010 10:07pm ET

They should have the next Cigar Aficionado's "Big Smoke" in Chicago, right next to the field that they torch these Cubans. All of us Aficionado's, could drink, cry and then breath in the nice smoke. I'll buy a ticket!

Taylor Franklin December 8, 2010 12:45am ET

A box here and a box there is not "accounted for" and not sent for "destruction".

Uncle Larry's in for a great Christmas.

JT Hallbeck — Alamogordo, NM, USA,  —  December 9, 2010 9:49pm ET

China is not a democracy, but we have problem buying and outsourcing to that country. The embargo is a cold war relic and should be abolished. Release the might of the U.S. consumer onto the Cuban economy, and we will improve lives beyond measure, and even (in time) help rid the proud people of Cuba of dictator(s).

JT Hallbeck — Alamogordo, NM, USA,  —  December 9, 2010 9:52pm ET

I meant "NO" problem buying from China.

Manfred Ng — Beijing, China,  —  December 10, 2010 9:22am ET

Lucky me I can buy from China, however tax are increasing to 50% of the cigar value recently.

Jim Tilton — Lake Luzerne, New York, United States of America,  —  December 12, 2010 11:00am ET

Memo to Raul and /or Fidel, Send us Joanne Chesimard and we'll rethink this embargo. It has been long enough.

William Lawson — Homosassa, FL, USA,  —  December 12, 2010 12:20pm ET

The Department of Homeland Security and the TSA have quickly created a new police state in the USA right under our noses. We no longer enjoy basic freedoms. Makes me wonder who won the war on terror. Write to the bastards and stop the NEOCON fear-mongers from winning.

Anthony December 13, 2010 12:07am ET

agreed. someone working for homeland security must've needed to refill their humi.

Stefano Baron December 13, 2010 6:00pm ET

It´s a shame. A cigar is just a pleasant piece of human work, that deserves recompensation and respect.
Cuban cigars are the very best we could taste.
I´m consider miself a lucky one to live in Brazil. Last saturday we have a meeting with 15 friends and could taste from cubans like BHK56 to many other good Central America cigars.

R D — Nashville, Tn, USA,  —  December 14, 2010 8:08am ET

Having had a few Cubans...Boys you're paying too much anyway.

Edward Conner — Phoenix, AZ, USA,  —  December 14, 2010 8:36pm ET

Be careful what you wish for...Cuba already sells every cigar it makes. What do you think will happen to the supply & price of these cigars when this Market is opened to consumers in the United States?

Robert Mann — Olathe, KS, USA,  —  December 14, 2010 10:42pm ET

The bastards got mine. The worst part was after they took out the cigars they sent me the empty shipping box. Talk about a blue Christmas…

deepceev December 15, 2010 4:45pm ET

Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations prohibit directly aiding the Cuban regime financially. These confiscated cigars had already been purchased by a third (non-US/non-Cuban) party and are thus fungible in terms of aid to Cuba. No US citizen buying Cuban cigars from a store or business outside of Cuba is directly aiding the Cuban government. No US citizen smoking a cigar purchased outside of Cuba is directly aiding the Cuban government. Cuba has already been paid for those boxes; they will be re-sold somewhere in the world regardless of any country's embargo. US law enforcement officers are misinterpreting and misrepresenting the law as it is written.

Robert Rojas — Suffern, NY, USA,  —  December 20, 2010 3:36pm ET

Wow this totally stinks! I guess there goes my hoyo's I was counting to have by Christmas! This embargo is a silly waste and is not helping anyone anymore. Enough is enough!

David Bayza — Ventura, CA,93003, USA,  —  December 21, 2010 4:15pm ET

Got nailed in this crackdown,but my supplier re-shipped my order with no problems,they didn't recharge me for the replacements,but they did request any and all paper work that I could send to them about the seized cigars. To my good fortune my re-shipped cigars arrived without a problem. Hope anyone effected by this has the same outcome as I did.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all.

Rex Harrison — Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand,  —  December 25, 2010 4:58am ET

America is choking on millions (billions?) of dollars of cocaine, heroin and god knows whatever illicit drug flowing across its borders but its Customs and Border Protection still find time to search and destroy a few dozen boxes of cigars? Winners!

Rex Harrison — Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand,  —  December 25, 2010 5:23am ET

Note to Simmon C: Cuba in the 1930s through to the 1950s was indeed a fabulous place - for an elite. The rest of the population were living way into and below the poverty line. Cuban government and economy was hugely suppoted by U.S. businesses and government. Corruption and organised crime was rife. (Mmm, that sounds familiar!) That's why there was a revolution (more than one, actually) and that's why a lot of Cubans today prefer life with Fidel, despite the hardships. When the regime finally goes the way of the old USSR one has to wonder if the bad old days will see a comeback. Let's hope not.

Janet Garnett — Louisville, Kentucky 40211, USA,  —  December 27, 2010 1:42am ET

Did you see the smile on that customs agent's face? The order is to destroy them. Yeah, they'll all be destroyed - in small fires one by one.

Michael Tarone — Bellefonte, PA, USA,  —  January 12, 2011 11:58am ET

The Cuban Embargo is an example of the double standard. The State of California is spending billions buying high-speed trains from Communist China. Those trains are going to be built in China and shipped here. You mean to tell me WE can't build high speed trains in the USA? We can't buy a Cuban Cigar (legally) in the US but we can give billions to the Chinese. It doesn't make any sense. The embargo hasn't worked. All it’s done is create a black market for cigars in the US.

Paulo Vieira — Milton, Ontario, Canada,  —  January 13, 2011 8:58am ET

Ummm. President Kennedy wanted to keep Cuban smokes out of the embargo but the Cubans said no and not the Americans. He ordered his press secretary to Cuba the day prior to the embargo being signed to pick up a wack of smokes. Once he returned with them, the embargo was signed.

This is not your government's doing it's the cubans. And rightfully so. You don't want their business, people or goods but you'll keep smoking the stogies??

Thomas McGill — Pittsburgh, PA, United States,  —  February 17, 2011 7:55am ET

In regards to the Florida Cubans who insist on continuing the embargo against there homeland, good for them...We as Americans have no idea what it means to suffer in real time in comparison to the Cubans who have. I find it quite amusing trying to find a good Cuban to smoke..Most of you folks who say that you have smoked a Real CUBAN, really haven't...Most wouldn't know a real Cuban because they change there labels continually because of counterfit...colors,embossing and such remain the same, but there paper will always remain a secret as long as we have an embargo against CUBA..They don't want embargo lifted, it would put alot of Cigar company's out of business. And while the embargo still continues, they are making a killing in the open market because of the demand...Take that from them and the Cubans will lose their back

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