PayPal apologises to Scottish coffee lovers hit by US-Cuba embargo threat

Hundreds of people buying Cuban coffee were warned for "breaking US law"

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PayPal, the online payments service, has apologised to customers of a Scottish coffee shop with a taste for Cuban roast after reporting them to the US authorities and accusing them of violating the long-standing trade embargo.

Hundreds of people who had purchased small amounts of Cuban coffee from The Bean Shop in Perth received emails from PayPal warning them that their accounts would be suspended if they did not sign an affidavit promising not to contravene US laws.

The messages also informed the customers they had been reported to the American Office of Foreign Assets Control. The issue arose because PayPal, the internet firm which processes The Bean Shop’s online payments, is based in the US.

“I’m astonished to be branded a criminal by PayPal,” said Euan Livingston from Linlithgow, one of the customers.

The 54-year-old trade embargo between the US and Cuba may soon be lifted following last week’s announcement by President Barack Obama that moves are under way to restore the countries’ diplomatic and economic ties.

In a statement, PayPal said: it was “obliged to comply with US government-imposed sanctions”, but added: “We are sorry we wrongly suggested that a number of Scottish customers may be breaking any laws by buying or selling Cuban coffee – this is not the case.”