HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba brushed off allegations that it has been used as a money-laundering center for a U.S. healthcare fraud scheme in Florida, saying on Wednesday it closely regulates domestic and foreign banking operations on the island."It is not Cuba, but rather the United States that is the central country for money laundering in the world," Johana Tablada, deputy director for North American policy at Cuba's Foreign Ministry, said in a statement to Reuters.
U.S. prosecutors in Miami have charged a South Florida man with funneling into Cuba more than $30 million obtained illicitly from Medicare, the U.S. federal health insurance program for the elderly.
They said there was no evidence that the Cuban government was involved, although some Miami news reports cited outside experts who said it had to be aware such large amounts of money were flowing in.
Prosecutors said the money was moved to Cuba through foreign shell companies and banks in Canada and Trinidad, including Republic Bank of Trinidad's Havana branch.
So far, Republic Bank officials have not responded to requests for comment.
Tablada said foreign banks in Cuba "are obligated to operate in strict adherence to international and Cuban regulations and must answer for the trustworthiness of their transactions and the correct use of their accounts to pass lawful operations."
Cuban banks have "a mechanism of vigilance and supervision," directed by the country's central bank, to detect fraud, Tablada said.
Cuba also cooperates with banks elsewhere to detect fraud, but, due to the longstanding U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, not with American banks, she added.
Because of U.S. policy toward Cuba "this type of collaboration does not exist with North American institutions," she said.
Because of the embargo, "transactions that Cuba makes with foreign banks are done in different currencies from the United States dollar, which causes substantial losses to our finances," she said.
(Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by David Adams, Tom Brown and Vicki Allen)