The Bank of England (BoE) is refusing to release around $550 million in gold owned by Venezuela back to the country over the UK regulator’s claim of growing uncertainty about Caracas’s intentions for the 14 tons of gold bars.
British officials are insisting that measures aimed at preventing money-laundering are taken, The Times reports. The Venezuelan government is reportedly expected to provide a clarification about its plans for the gold.
“There are concerns that Mr. Maduro may seize the gold, which is owned by the state, and sell it for personal gain,” the media reports citing unnamed sources.
Reports emerged earlier this week that the Venezuelan government had been trying to reach the gold belonging to the country for two months. The talks had reportedly come to a standstill due to increased difficulties in obtaining insurance for the shipping that is necessary to move a large gold cargo.
Last week, Venezuelan gold exports became subject of another round of US sanctions against the Latin American country. The latest penalties target both US individuals and corporations involved with gold sales in Venezuela.
Over the past several years, Washington introduced a wide range of punitive measures against the Bolivarian Republic, hitting its finances, debt issuance and business activity of state oil company PDVSA. US authorities accuse Venezuela’s current government and its leader Nicolas Maduro of violating human rights and undermining democracy.
Venezuela, which is currently in the throes of a severe economic crisis, has recently made attempts to eliminate reliance on US-controlled financial institutions and instruments, including the US dollar. Last month, the country committed to trading in euros, yuan and ‘other convertible currencies’ amid US penalties.
Over the past three years, Venezuela has been using its gold as collateral to get billions in loans from international lenders. However, swap agreements became difficult for Venezuela in 2017 after Washington banned US financial institutions from financing operations there.