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Cigar Diary: Fighting Counterfeits

Habanos S.A., Cuba's global cigar distribution company, struggles to keep fake cigars off the market, both in Cuba and around the world
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Cuban Models, May/June 03

(continued from page 2)

Of course, the cigar jockeys on the streets of Havana will insist that their cigars are the real thing. They say that they have a relative working in a factory and that their cigars are 100 percent authentic. "Don't worry, chico," they say.

Some cigar jineteras even provide better service than the official cigar shops in Cuba. Someone who was renting the house before me apparently had bought a bunch of fake boxes and he wasn't happy with the quality, so he returned them to the vendor. Early one morning after the previous tenant had left, a young man in his 20s knocked on the door of the house and asked to see "John from Chicago."

I said that John had left the day before, and he wouldn't be back. "OK," said the Cuban, who claimed to be with his mother who worked at the La Corona factory.

"Please give him his $100 back," he said, handing me a new $100 bill. "He didn't like the quality of my cigars and I don't want any problems."

I shook my head in disbelief and gave the $100 bill to one of John's friends from Chicago. "Now there's service with a smile," I thought to myself. And a sign that the counterfeit business in Cuba is still thriving.

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