Dutch firm is first to open office in Cuba

LEADING Dutch firm Trenite Van Doorne has become the first foreign firm to open an office in communist Cuba.

The offices will be headed by Sebastiaan Berger, who has spent the past one and a half years building up his firm's Cuban practice.

He is joined in the new Havana office by Rotterdam partner Jan Willem Bitter.

The Dutch firm has also recruited local lawyer Alijandro Cruz RomAn, who previously worked for 10 years at Cuba's central bank.

The groundbreaking move comes at a time when several firms, including Linklaters, White & Case and Richards Butler are making inroads into central and south America.

Bitter said Trenite had been interested in Cuba since 1992 when clients at the firm's Curacao office in the Dutch Antilles said they wanted to do business in the country.

He said the firm had often sent partners to work in the country, but it was only during the past year that they had decided to try to open an office there.

According to Bitter, the unprecedented nature of the new venture meant it was difficult to set up the new office. “We were the first firm to do this so there were no rules. We had to start from zero,” he said.

The firm now officially operates out of an office in an economic free zone near Havana.

Trenite is among the top-six Dutch firms and is allied with leading French firm Salans Hertzfeld & Heilbronn. Its formal relationship with top German firm Wessing Beren berg-Gossler Zimmermann finished at the end of last year. As well as the Curacao and Havana offices, it has foreign offices in London, Brussels, Tokyo and Warsaw.