Havana Airport Robbery

Havana’s Jose Marti Airport. Photo: cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES – During his last trip to Cuba in December, 2018, Peter B Kappelmann, a retired senior citizen who has been a frequent visitor to Cuba since 2007, was robbed big-time at Terminal 3 of the Jose Marti International Airport.

The following is his recount of what happened:

Statement of facts 

On Sunday, December 16, 2018, I was to depart from Havana international airport – Terminal 3.

Around 3:00 pm my wheelchair attendant wheeled me through immigration and then onto the security screening section. He bypassed all waiting lines and deposited me in weelchair to the left side of the screening hall.

There, all items where deposited into 2 trays which included all my personal documents and all contents from my pockets – Passport plus 3 white envelopes containing cash and wallet inside the pockets on my special traveling shirt.

The attendant then proceeded to the far-right screening machine approximately 30 meters away – Bypassing all other lines of passengers. After around 10 minutes he returned to wheel me around to the other side where all items were waiting while sitting in the wheelchair.

I redressed in a hasty manner as many passengers where pushing alongside – I was wheeled to my gate and after giving him a tip he left.

After a few minutes I had to precede to the toilet and then realized that the 3 envelopes with a total of 3,400 Euros was missing.

I proceeded as fast as was possible on my damage knee to the security screening office. The officer was totally DISINTERESED and NEGATIVE and questioned me whether this had really happened!!!!!!

For one hour I sat in front of the office, questioning three different security officers who all just shrugged their shoulders and walked away. One said that nothing showed up on the video. They did not show it to me.

The person pointed to the other side of the hall to the police office. I went over and reported everything over again. I was left standing in the door of the small office until I had to sit down around the corner.

Again, nothing happened and I was told repeatedly to wait. After a 1/2 hour I had to leave to not to miss my international flight.


NO screening was shown to me.

NO report was taken or written up.

NO questioning or interrogation of the wheelchair atendant was made.


There is an organized culture at the Havana airport security screening of stealing from departing international travelers knowing that we have to board flights out of Cuba.


Peter B. Kappelmann in Havana.

Kappelmann told us: “I am well acquainted with Cuban life as I lived in Havana, along the Malecon seawall drive all of 2016. I have made many acquaintances and have an English-speaking secretary there who assists me on all my visits.

I have purchased Cuban art which forms the basis of my art collection and despite what happened I intend to return to Havana at least two times this year.

27 thoughts on “Havana Airport Robbery

  • I went to Cuba with bike and some medicine for a rural clinic. Had written permission before we left Canada. The local police tried to keep the bike for safe keeping when I was there told to take bike back to Canada but when I got to airport to leave would not let my bike back on the plane. I complained about the police about that and the day the local police took $50 CD dollars from me for no good reason. I wrote 3 letters and went back to the Cuban embassy in Toronto 4 times over the next year and half. Nobody had a explaintion. They just said its Cuba.

  • I want to second what Sandra said. Why carry cash in envelopes and place them in full sight? You wouldn’t do that anywhere else, so why expect it to be safer in Cuba? I’ve loved my recent visits there. Not only have I had nothing stolen, but on both occasions I have been given several gifts by Cubans — in spite of the fact that they have so little. Having said that, taking advantage of tourists at the airport is inexcusable.

  • There are billions of working poor people around the world who don’t even get the “rations” Cuban people get but they don’t steal from others. Who says that being poor, gives you the right to steal from others?
    I love Cuba, my daughter lived and study there and I lived with a Cuban family for a month, I understand the fact that they have very little, but they have something, in other countries people get nothing from the government. Very sad to read some Cubans steep so low.

  • One of my Cuban friends said all the baby supplies she left at her daughter’s daycare was stolen. The employee responsible was found and fired. Only ?

    See Cubans even steal from each other.

    I’m Canadian and leave my house unlocked when I go out. Akways.

    It’s not “necessitas”. That is BS. It’s a moral failing.

    While violent crime is rare, commin thievery is everywhere. People seem to accept it and the consequences minimal. There doesn’t seem to be any social stigma attached to it either.

    This is one thing about Cuba that is really bad and really sad. 🙁

    Get a grip Cuba! It is not civilized behavior.

  • I sent a post dated draft for 40.00.can 11 years ago and it was never found or cashed so the cubans are not always to blame im taking thomas cook travel checks they can be replaced my cell and my equiment for photos will remain home my cell can be replaced my laptop can’t….

  • Most Cubans are very helpful in all situations, but in certain locations you should be on the look-out for thieves and con artists, Habana Vieja, for instance. Still, you can find worse places in Europe for tourists to be in, Rome or Barcelona, for instance, and I have heard Latin American tourists in Cuba talk about how safe they feel in comparison to their own countries. I feel as secure in Habana as I do in Copenhagen – where tourists also risk getting robbed or having their stuff stolen.
    The airport, however, may be an actual problem that needs to be solved. I’ve never had any problems at the José Martí airport, but it’s not the first time that I hear about problems there.

  • You are not supposed to bring food items into Cuba, and in particular not fresh fruit.
    It’s mainly a fear of pests and plant diseases. You’ll find the same concern in many other countries, Australia, for instance. I never had any problem with processed food. Chocolate, candy and stuff like that.
    I don’t know if lighters have anything to do with flight security. I never had any problems with the (very few) lighters that I’ve brought to Cuba in my suitcase.

  • Good experience with Cubans, been to there homes and have had some guides, Canada

  • Was in Moron the other day, dropped a peso out of my pocket when reaching for my cell phone. I noticed someone following me, kept walking. I decided to turn around, a Cuban gave me my peso back, told me I dropped it. Coming back at dusk no cabs around, ask a Cuban for help he went away came back with a cab, took me me back to resort. George from Canada

  • During my 79 visits to Cuba, mostly to places in the east of the island, I was robbed once when I was taking a private dance class. The instructor’s mother-in-law reached to my rucksack where I had over 300 cuc in one of the pockets while I was busy learning some new steps. The following morning I found only a few smaller notes left there but it was too late. As I still had one week to go, on the way to a tourist resort, I was almost without any cash. Thankfully, a Cuban friend of mine lent me money for the rest of my stay. Once I had a few apples confiscated by customs officials upon arrival and – every time while departing – a cigarette lighter. It seems that the customs officials are obsessed about the lighters. What they do with them (or the apples) I can only guess. Cubans robbing Cubans however is a fact of life, especially if people know a foreigner is staying with the Cuban family.

  • Cuban morality should not be a function of US foreign policy. A Cuban Customs official who would steal from a wheelchair-bound tourist is a thief. The embargo has nothing to do with that.

  • Thievery is normal in Cuba, the black market is full of stolen items.
    And very little is true, you’ll find it out the hard way most do.

  • ¡Vergüenza es lo que no tienen! Nada justifica lo mal hecho.

  • I have travelled over 30 times to Cuba in the past 15 years using Havana’s airport only twice. Each time i carried my money (Canadian) on my person. So it was never a problem . Over those years i lost some things, – a 3 dollar flashlight, a processed cheese sandwich taken from me (had bought on plane for 2 hour night travel to hotel) and a turtle neck long sleeved sweater.
    My advice to you is always keep the money on your body, they have no right to take paper bills from you to check, only coins.

  • I can believe someone would blame the jack of morals with the embargo. The Cuban government can buy and do business with anyone in the world the Castro wants to end the end the embargo in order to get credit and as usually do not pay. The Castro monarchy needs to call for free elections with multiple parties. Let the Cubans be FREE.

  • Leftist chump…meanwhile Cubans suffer hunger while you are dining on Lobster Newburg ala Castro…POS!!!

  • Let us not forget only 50% of parcels mailed to Cuba get delivered. Packages routinely looted for sale on the black market.

    Aliexpress suspended shipping to Cuba entirely. Because the postal system cannot guarantee delivery.

  • I left my nice digital camera, in my camera bag, at a basement bar, and realized it about 5 minutes later. When I went back, as I was on my way down the stairs, the bartender was running up the stairs with it to find me. We had a good laugh as we met half way up/down the staircase. It was a nice moment. I’m sure there is theft in Cuba just as there is anywhere else in the world. But for tourists, Cuba is much, much safer than any other country I’ve ever visited. Much of the hustling is very light-weight and easily brushed off. I realize most Cuban people look for ways to supplement their 19th century incomes, but I don’t think poverty is a ‘fair’ excuse in most people’s minds to rob or steal from strangers. I would not want to say that their poverty is a point of pride, as one comment perhaps suggested, but I do think there is tremendous pride in Cuba despite the poverty their government has given the people. Organized theft by government employees at airports and the like, I have not seen first-hand and can’t say it doesn’t happen…this is one reason I like to fly into Terminal 2 in Havana. It is a tiny terminal and just has a laid back feeling.

  • That’s CUBA they hate AMERICANS but love your Dollars but you still support the communist country

  • Just been to Cuba..loved it. No theft at airport or anywhere else. Walked late at night in dark streets.. no problems. People trusted us to pay them for items in shops when we didn’t have cash on us (and we had the item with us) I.e went back a few hours later with cash. Also…a bottle of rum went off for a ride in a taxi (we forgot it) and it was brought back to us the next day. I loved the people.

  • After more than 50 years of economic embargo do you really expect anything else? The Cubans call it “La Necesidad”.
    Lift the Embargo. Then Cubans can have a better life.

  • Actually, he is totally right, all he said is true!
    I am cuban and lived in Havana until I was 24 years old.

  • I knew an immigration officer at Jose Martin personally …. they have an organised and systemic system of theft from tourists to supplement there 15 cuc monthly wage. Does not surprise me why they were un- interested. They are all in on it and the proceeds are divided up between the top brass to the lowly baggage handler. Bribes and baggage theft it all goes on. Be warned.

  • We traveled to Cuba , August 2018. My daughter and I are cautious travelers having been to several countries. We felt safe in Cuba and were very happy with our many interactions with the Cuban people.
    We read up on what to expect and knew that crimes against tourists were extremely rare. There were encounters with scam artist that were easily avoided and most were easily dismissed.
    The author of the article laments and accuses the Cuban people of committing crimes because of their economic hardships but that’s untrue. The hardships faced by the people bring them resolution and strength that the author fails to grasp , making accusations / allegations that demonize an entire population.
    Shame on you and your pathetic , no one cares , no one would listen to me. Boo hoo !
    Poor pathetic you.

  • I had a digital camera and a small lap-top taken from checked-in luggage into J.Marti airport in 2011. Since then, I do not dare leave electronics in checked-in bags when coming in or out of Cuba. We have been there four times since and no problems.
    Let us be reminded of why it is happening. Working for the state, which most people do, they make around $25 a month. They are working poor people. The state forces people to become thieves in order to survive. (and I don’t want to hear that the U.S. embargo is solely to blame. In part, yes, but it is mostly to the failed economic workings of the Cuban government.)

  • I had over $500 in cash,Ray Ban sun glasses,and some ohter stuff stolen at terminal 3 in Havana too.
    Did not realized it till we got back home.
    They are very smart thieves,they ask me if I wanted to check in the carry on bags at no extra charge,I did but I forgot every important thing in them,I got robbed.
    I made a complaint to American Airlines ,they don’t give a fuck !!!!
    They didn’t offer any help,because they said it was cash,I knew that would be there answer.
    At least they should have said something like,we will investigate,because that has happened to a few other people that I have spoken with.

  • I had problems at Holguin airport with customs. I have also been robbed by slight of hand or picpocketing in Santiago itself. Robbed in Cienfuegos too by a con artist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.