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Businesses face US ban over Cuba links

A total of 27 leading British companies and organisations and their directors face being blacklisted in the United States, under the controversial Helms- Burton Act, which gives authorities the power to exclude businesses and individuals from the US if they have done business in Cuba.

The list, obtained by Bryan Cassidy, a Conservative Euro-MP, from the US House of Representatives international relations sub-committee, includes The Body Shop, tobacco group BAT, chemicals giant ICI, shipping firm P&O, Unilever and drugs group Glaxo-Wellcome.

He warned yesterday that not only the companies themselves but directors and their families could be expelled from the United States or barred from entry. Up to 318 European companies could be affected.

One organisation on the list is the Commonwealth Development Corporation, a Government body which manages pounds 1.5bn of investment projects in developing countries. CDC directors include Pen Kent, who is also a director of the Bank of England, and Russell Seal, a main board director of the oil company BP with responsibility for refinery operations.

However Sean Magee, a CDC director, said last night that the organisation, which announced last year that it planned to pursue projects in Cuba, had not taken any action in the country. He said the CDC's understanding of the Helms-Burton legislation was that those affected had to deal with assets confiscated during the Cuban revolution and at this stage no money had been spent and no directors had travelled to Cuba on business.

"However we are watching developments closely. It could have extremely serious implications for us," Mr Magee said.