Cuba to turn over fugitive couple, kids to U.S.

Havana, Apr 9 (EFE).- Cuba will turn over to U.S. authorities the American couple accused of kidnapping their two young sons from their maternal grandmother, who had permanent custody of them, and taking them to the island illegally, the Cuban Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Joshua Hakken, 36, and his wife Sharyn, 35, sailed to the Hemingway Marina in Havana last Sunday on their boat Salty, or Salty Paw, the foreign ministry said.

A U.S. warrant was issued for the father on charges of kidnapping, interfering with child custody, child neglect, automobile theft and false imprisonment among other crimes but the mother, for the moment, is only considered a suspect.

Given the press reports "linking the Hakkens with a case of kidnapping minors, Cuban authorities communicated the presence of these people in Cuba" last Monday to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana and later to the State Department in Washington, according to the statement, which was signed by the assistant director for the U.S. region at the ministry, Johana Tablada.

The communique goes on to say that "diplomatic memoranda have been exchanged and a professional and constant communication has been maintained" between the ministry and the U.S. Interests Section, with an eye toward "guaranteeing the integrity and wellbeing of the minors." However, Tablada did not say when the family would be turned over to U.S. authorities.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said that the Interests Section had cooperated with Cuban authorities in the case and provided assistance to the family, but he declined to give any additional information citing "reasons of privacy."

Chase, 2, and 4-year-old Cole Hakken (although other news outlets report their ages as 3 and 5, respectively) were abducted last week and law enforcement authorities believed that their parents had taken them by sea to Cuba but originally could not confirm that they were still there.

However, CNN reported on Tuesday that it spotted the family boat, at Havana's Hemingway Marina and spoke with a man who identified himself as Joshua Hakken but did not want to make any remarks.

The network also reported seeing a boy playing in the aft section of the boat.

The boys were taken from the house of their maternal grandmother - who lives near Tampa - by their father while his wife is believed to have been waited outside.

Louisiana officials said that in June 2012 police responded to a complaint that the couple was making too much racket in a Louisiana hotel room, where the children were and where later drugs and weapons were found.

Josh Hakken was arrested and Louisiana authorities temporarily took custody of the boys, but after a time, officials decided to give their maternal grandmother, a Florida resident, permanent custody.

Cuba and the United States have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, but in 1977 they agreed to establish interest sections in the respective capitals.