Venezuela’s Opposition Asks The BoE Not To Return Gold To Maduro - Report
(Kitco News) - The Venezuelan government’s attempts to repatriate its 14 tons of gold being stored at the Bank of England (BoE) just got a little more complicated, with the country’s opposition asking the British central bank not to release the bullion to President Nicolas Maduro, according to media reports.
Venezuela’s former National Assembly President Julio Borges and the political coordinator for the centrist social-democratic Voluntad Popular party, Carlos Vecchio, sent a letter to the BoE’s governor Mark Carney on Friday, asking him to deny Venezuela’s repatriation request and accusing Maduro of corruption, Miami Herald reported.
“This transaction is clearly prompted by illegal and immoral motives: Maduro and his associates have systematically used the assets of the Venezuelan state (including the gold) to sustain money laundering efforts, and to facilitate the widespread and damaging system of corruption and repression financed by the Venezuelan dictatorship using the money of the Venezuelans,” they wrote. “Huge sums have been stolen by Maduro and his associates.”
In November, media reports said that Maduro was attempting to get the gold that is worth more than $550 million back, but the BoE was refusing to cooperate.
British officials are reportedly insisting that the Venezuelan government reveals its plans for the gold in order 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 said to have been 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 and 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.
In the meantime, the BoE has not commented or issued any public statements on this matter.
Maduro’s attempt at gold repatriation comes after the U.S. President Donald Trump introduced a new round of sanctions against Venezuela, which banned U.S. citizens from making deals with anyone involved in “corrupt or deceptive” gold sales from Venezuela.
In their letter, Borges and Vecchio stated that returning Venezuela’s gold to Maduro would force the BoE to go against the U.S. sanctions.
“We assess that the repatriation of the Venezuelan gold would breach the BoE’s legal obligations to prevent money laundering and corruption,” they wrote. “Moreover, this transaction is a direct effort from the Venezuelan dictatorship to circumvent ongoing sanctions issued by U.S. President Donald Trump.”
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.