President Nicolas Maduro’s government has secured about $ 1.21 billion from trade to stay afloat despite crippling US sanctions, according to an opposition figure.
Venezuela sent gold to Mali in 2020 via Russian-owned planes to exchange for euros and US dollars that President Nicolas Maduro’s government used to keep afloat despite US sanctions, said Wednesday a representative of the opposition.
Julio Borges, appointed by Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as his main foreign envoy, told reporters that the gold had been refined in Mali and then resold mainly in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to enable l administration of Maduro to obtain the equivalent of at least 1 dollar. billion euros ($ 1.21 billion).
The United States, which accuses Maduro of rigging his 2018 re-election, imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company in early 2019 in an attempt to pressure Maduro to resign. His socialist government has increasingly turned to the sale of monetary gold as a source of income, with central bank reserves falling to their lowest level in 50 years.
“We call on the US and European authorities to make their system of dismantling these types of organized crime groups more sophisticated,” Borges said, adding that the opposition had been following the Venezuelan gold trade for a year, leading to the report. presented Wednesday.
Borges said Noor Capital – an Emirati company which in early 2019 said it had bought three tons of gold from Venezuela’s central bank but would refrain from further transactions until the situation in Venezuela stabilizes – had been involved in the 2020 transactions.
Noor Capital did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. Noor said in January 2019 that its purchases of Venezuelan gold complied with “international standards and applicable laws” as of January 21 of this year.
The Reuters news agency was unable to independently verify Borges’ claims. A person close to the Venezuelan government said much of the gold leaving the country was destined for the United Arab Emirates after two shutdowns, but did not provide further details.
Neither Venezuela’s central bank nor the government’s information ministry immediately responded to requests for comment.
The governments of the United Arab Emirates and Mali also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The UAE, one of the world’s largest gold hubs, has responded to previous criticisms of opacity in its bullion trade by pledging to develop “increasingly robust mechanisms to address the challenges posed by financial crime. “.
Washington, which has imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s gold exports, said Maduro continues to sell gold to fund the South American government.
“Since 2016, Maduro has actively encouraged, supported and facilitated the illegal exploitation, distribution and sale of gold by those around him, funding repression, treating the country’s natural resources as his own and devastating fragile ecosystems,” he said. said a US Department of State spokesperson said.
Maduro, who retains the support of the Venezuelan military and its allies including Russia, China and Cuba, argues that Guaido is an American puppet who seeks to oust him in a coup.