The BoE Refuses To Release Venezuela’s Gold Worth $550 Million - Reports
(Kitco News) - The Bank of England (BoE) is reportedly refusing to release gold bars worth just over $550 million to President Nicolas Maduro, who fears that U.S. sanctions against Venezuela would restrict access to that gold in the future, according to media reports.
Maduro is attempting to repatriate at least 14 tonnes of gold the BoE is currently storing, the British newspaper The Times and Reuters reported citing unnamed sources.
The BoE is said to be holding on to the gold for now because British officials are insisting on a clarification from the Venezuelan government about its plans for the gold to prevent money-laundering, The Times reported.
“There are concerns that Mr. Maduro may seize the gold, which is owned by the state, and sell it for personal gain,” the newspaper said.
Venezuela’s gold stored at the BoE was reportedly used as collateral until last year, backing loans up to several billion dollars from global banks, The Times added.
Another official told Reuters anonymously that this gold repatriation attempt by Maduro has been a two-month ordeal, noting that it has been difficult to get insurance for such a large gold shipment.
“They are still trying to find insurance coverage because the costs are high,” the official said.
Reports of Maduro’s attempt at gold repatriation follows the U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last week to introduce a new round of sanctions against Venezuela, which bans U.S. citizens from making deals with anyone involved in “corrupt or deceptive” gold sales from Venezuela.
The economic situation in Venezuela has been dire, with the country in its fifth year of recession and annual inflation running at more than 400,000%. This has forced many people to leave their homes in search for a better life, creating a massive exodus of around two million people, according to reports.
Maduro has stated in the past that his administration is a victim of an “economic war,” which is driven by his opposition and Washington.
Gold repatriation is not new for Venezuela, with Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chávez already bringing home around 160 tonnes of gold from American and European banks back in 2011. Majority of that gold has since then been reportedly quietly sold off.
Turkey has been one of the principal buyers of Venezuela’s gold, according to American officials, who claim that Turkey has been selling that gold to Iran despite U.S. sanctions against the country.