U.S. settles with employers of contractor newly freed by Cuba

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 23, 2014 5:07 PM

MIAMI (Reuters) - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on Tuesday it has settled claims with a company that employed Alan Gross, the contractor freed last week after five years in a Cuban jail as part of a major shift in U.S.-Cuba relations.

USAID finalized the settlement with Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI) on Monday night for $3.2 million, according to a spokesman for the federal agency that handles aid to foreign countries.

Bethesda, Maryland-based DAI had been seeking $7 million in costs before the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, the spokesman said. DAI was waiting to receive a copy of the statement before issuing a response, a company spokesman said.

Gross had been jailed in Cuba since December 2009 until his release last week as the governments of the United States and communist-run Cuba restored diplomatic relations and swapped prisoners.

His detention was a major obstacle to improvement in U.S-Cuban relations after more than 50 years of hostility.

The settlement, agreed in principle in November, calls for payment by USAID for unanticipated claims under a cost-reimbursement contract, including claims related to Gross, USAID said in its statement.

"The settlement avoids the cost, delay and risks of further proceedings, and does not constitute an admission of liability by either party," the statement said.

Gross was serving a 15-year sentence for providing Internet equipment to Jewish Cubans under a U.S. program that Cuba views as subversive. Information is tightly controlled on the Caribbean island, Internet use is limited, and visitors are not allowed to carry satellite technology.

The United States says Gross was merely helping Cubans get connected as part of a democracy-building project.

Gross and his wife Judy filed a $60 million lawsuit in November 2012 for gross negligence against DAI and the U.S. government. Gross settled with DAI for undisclosed terms in May 2013, and a U.S. district court rejected his claim against the government, which was upheld last month on appeal.

(Reporting By David Adams; Editing by Grant McCool)