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Moore denies doing wrong in Cuba

Published: 7:39AM Saturday May 12, 2007 Source: Reuters

Filmmaker Michael Moore, facing a US government probe into a recent trip to Cuba, has lashed out at the Bush administration, declaring he did nothing illegal by visiting the communist-ruled island.

"I have broken no laws, and I have nothing to hide," the maverick director wrote in a letter to US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson posted at the Daily Kos website.

A day earlier, Moore, whose 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 skewered US President George Bush for his actions following the September 11 attacks, released a letter from the Treasury Department that warned Moore of its investigation.

US citizens are generally barred from traveling to the communist country unless approved by the government under a broad trade embargo imposed against Cuba since 1962.

The Treasury letter implies Moore did not have authorisation, asks for more information and warns of possible civil or criminal penalties.

A Treasury spokeswoman has declined to comment on any specific investigation and noted the agency sends hundreds of letters each year seeking details about possible violations.

Moore was in Cuba in March to film a segment for his new documentary SiCKO, which seeks to "expose the health care industry's greed and control over America's political processes," the director wrote in his letter.

News reports have said Moore took volunteer rescue workers who suffered health problems after September 11 to Cuba where they received better care than in the United States.

Moore spokesman Chris Lehane declined comment on the exact events that took place in Cuba during the filmmaker's visit. But he did say the director brought with him some "9/11 heroes who had serious health problems."

"People will be very surprised and provoked as to what motivated the trip and actually transpired in Cuba," Lehane said. He added that Moore chose to post the letter on Daily Kos because that site "has been leading the fight for real reforms ... which is exactly what Michael does with his films."

The Weinstein Co., which is backing SiCKO, said it hired high-profile Washington attorney David Boies to represent the film and brought on two New York publicity firms.

SiCKO is to premiere at France's Cannes film festival this month and in US theatres on June 29. Health care groups and US politicians have already given reactions supporting and attacking Moore over the movie.

The storm of publicity and controversy is reminiscent of the lead-up to Fahrenheit 9/11, which became the top-grossing political documentary of all time, raking in roughly $222 million at worldwide box offices.