WASHINGTON, DC —Ekathimerini, the online version of the Athens, Greece daily newspaper Kathimerini, published a commentary authored by American Hellenic Institute (AHI) Board Member and volunteer counsel Nicholas G. Karambelas, Esq. titled, “The seizure of US property: Cuba and Cyprus,” on May 28, 2019.
Karambelas summarized the Helms-Burton Act which was enacted in 1996. This Act enables US nationals, whose property was expropriated by the Cuban government in 1961, to sue persons who use and profit from the property in US courts for money damages. Every president since Bill Clinton has suspended the Act so that no US national has been able to sue under the Act. In February, President Trump lifted the suspension. Several US nationals, including ExxonMobil, have now filed lawsuits under the Act.
He writes that the Helms-Burton Act raises the issue of what rights, if any, US nationals should have when property they own in a foreign country is expropriated or taken. Although the facts with Cuba differ, this issue has been raised in Cyprus since Turkey has taken the property of US nationals, which is located in occupied Cyprus. Karambelas notes that in 2011, at the suggestion of AHI, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced a bill similar to the Helms-Burton Act. The bill would have enabled US nationals to sue for money damages in US courts any person who uses or profits from their property in occupied Cyprus. The bill never progressed. Since the Helms-Burton Act is back in effect, Karambelas questions whether the Pallone bill should be reconsidered.