Date: October 2020
Author: Inspector Z

Heirs of Ramón Rodriguez Gutiérrez sue Habanos. When President Trump did not suspend Title III of the Helms-Burton Act in May of last year, he opened a door for this lawsuit. By doing so, he was activating the opportunity for American citizens to sue Cuban or foreign entities dealing with property nationalized by the Cuban State after 1959. And the heirs of H. Upmann are taking that opportunity to claim compensation. Even though the co-president of Habanos S.A., Luis Sánchez Harguindey, claimed that “We are fairly quiet and we do not foresee any legal action against us” during the Habanos Festival in February.

The claim

The heirs of Ramón Rodriguez Gutiérrez filed a complaint against Habanos S.A in a Florida court. The claim is against Habanos. The claim is filed on August 6th. Habanos is a joint venture between the Cuban state and Imperial Brands. Although Imperial Brands is finalizing the sale to a Hong Kong-based consortium.

The Rodriguez family is claiming the heritage of the H. Upmann factory. Or the Jose Marti Cigar Factory as the name is nowadays. The Cuban government renamed the factory. Jose Marti is a Cuban national hero from the Cuban independence war. The confiscation of the factory by the young Cuban revolution took place in 1961. And now seven heirs are claiming compensation.

Ministry of Cigars - Heirs of Ramón Rodriguez Gutiérrez sue Habanos
The H.Upmann/Jose Marti factory (Photo credit: Cubancigarsculturelifestyleblog)

More claims

This is the first claim under the Helms-Burton Act in the cigar industry. Since May 2nd, 29 complaints are filed. Some are dismissed, others are still open. Some large companies are facing claims. Companies such as cruise liner Carnival Corporation, alcohol giant Pernod-Richard, Mastercard, and Tripadvisor. Imperial and Habanos already say that they will defend themselves vigorously. According to Imperial Brands, the lawsuit will not affect the sales of premium cigars.

The source of this information is the French magazine L’Amateur de Cigare. They have a copy of the complaint by the Rodriguez heirs.

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