During January of 1951 – Emmanuel Theodore Casdagli, representing the UK Board of Trade, met with the Cuban Ambassador along with Cuban Trade delegation lead by Dr. Andrea Vargas-Gomez. This was primarily to seal a trade of over 5 million tons of Cuban Sugar. Totally unexpectedly the Cuban Ambassador asked Emmanuel whether, as a gesture of goodwill, the UK would agree to a resumption of imports of Havana Cigars which, at that time, had ceased completely. The Cubans wanted importation licences granted in the region of £100,000 (around £2,000,000 in today’s value – 2016).
These discussions were very sensitive for both countries. Any agreement with the UK by Cuba would be dismantling the preferential tariff agreements the Cubans had arranged with the USA. Likewise any such agreement with the Cuban government by the UK would be perceived as damaging to UK trade with the commonwealth.
Havana tobacco was particularly sensitive as firstly the importation of a luxury product of this nature would not be favoured by the current UK socialist leaning UK government under Clement Attlee and secondly it would devastate the protected Jamaican tobacco industry, at that time UK’s prime importer.
Emmanuel knew the political implications were huge and so, on the undertaking that the Cubans would agree that there would be no publicity in regards the cigar importation until the deal was done – or “Hush Hush” in Emmanuel’s words – the go ahead by the highest authorities was given.
Unfortunately Emmanuel and the Cuban delegation were ambushed by a certain Mr. Evans of the Daily Express. The whole deal was exposed in the front pages of the Daily Express. But nevertheless Emmanuel pushed it through and the Cuban dominance of the UK premium cigar market resumed. The rest as we say is history…