The family of the late gangster Meyer Lansky is hoping to be compensated for a Havana casino hotel seized after Cuba's 1959 revolution, now that the countries have begun trying to resolve billions in dollars in claims for the confiscation of American properties by the island's socialist government.
Lansky's family sees an opportunity to reclaim the Habana Riviera or its cash equivalent.
``The hotel was taken from my grandfather forcefully,'' said Lansky's 60-year-old grandson, Gary Rapoport, of Tampa. ``Cuba owes my family money.''
When the Havana hotel opened in 1957, it was the largest casino hotel in Cuba and boasted air conditioning when that amenity was still a rarity. It became kind of a base for Lansky, considered one of the most significant mob figures of the 20th century.
The Hyman Roth character in ``The Godfather Part II'' was based on Lansky and he was a figure in the HBO series ``Boardwalk Empire.''
Rapoport said his grandfather never recouped his investment in the project.
It cost an estimated $8 million to build the Habana Riviera in the 1950s. It still is operated as a state-run hotel.
``We never filed a claim with the government or hired an attorney earlier because we didn't think the door for negotiating would ever actually open,'' Rapoport said. ``Now it is open.''
Whether the family ever can be compensated is unclear. Rapoport said his family can prove ownership through financial records.
An initial list American properties and business nationalized in Cuba was completed on July 6, 1972. The U.S. government's Foreign Claims Settlement Commission accepted claims again from 2005 through 2006, but not since then.
In an email to The Tampa Tribune, the State Department said the commission ``is not presently authorized to accept additional claims by U.S. nationals for property seized by Cuba.''