The Miami Herald

March 2, 1981

Did Learjet plan illegal Cuba sales?


WICHITA, Kan. - (UPI) -Gates Learjet Corp. reportedly tried to sell $10 million worth of aircraft to persons the firm suspected of being Cuban agents, despite an embargo on U.S.-Cuban trade.

However, The Wichita Eagle-Beacon reported in its Sunday edition that the deal was called off after another aircraft piloted by the suspected Cubans was impounded by the U.S. government, causing the Latin Americans to become concerned that the attempted sale would be thwarted.

The instigator of the deal with Learjet six months ago was Oscar Domingo Vazquez, who had claimed to be a Nicaraguan but was identified by the Treasury Department as a Cuban government official.

The Eagle-Beacon reported that Learjet, despite earlier warnings by the Treasury Department that Vazquez might be a Cuban, still received an export license for the deal from the Commerce Department.

Learjet then proceeded with plans to sell three aircraft to the group although Learjet's vice president of international sales, Finn Hedlund, warned other company officials that the firm might be violating the embargo.

On Sept. 5, 1980, three members of the "Nicaraguan" delegation were arrested in Florida by U.S. Immigration and Naturalization agents. They were found to carry passports recognizing them as citizens of both Nicaragua and Cuba.

Their plane was impounded and Vazquez, who was not among those arrested, reportedly called off the $10-million deal with Learjet because he was afraid those aircraft would also be impounded.

The Eagle-Beacon reported that Learjet later received a letter from the Treasury Department forbidding the firm from doing future business with Vazquez because he was a Cuban agent.

Vazquez's three cohorts were also found to be Cuban agents and were deported.