With Venezuela’s economy a shambles and its currency devastated by hyperinflation, President Nicolas Maduro is clinging to power by selling off the country’s one asset that retains substantial value—gold.
The sales are occurring despite U.S. sanctions against Venezuela’s state gold mining company and previously-imposed sanctions to prevent Venezuela from selling its gold. The United States accuses the mining company of propping up the Maduro regime, which the U.S. does not recognize.
Venezuela has been evading restraints on its gold trade by smuggling gold out of the country. The Wall Street Journal reports Venezuela is sending gold ingots through a secretive channel to Africa to maintain its financial lifeline.
Shipment documents identified the gold as the property of the Venezuela central bank, according to a senior Ugandan police officer.
The gold was brought to the African Gold Refinery Ltd. (AGR), which is located by the Entebbe airport, according to the Journal. The first shipment of gold, reportedly, was repackaged and sent off to Turkey. After being tipped off, Ugandan police seized the second shipment, 3.6 tons of ingots bearing the stamp of Venezuela’s central bank, with some of the markings partially scratched off. Paperwork accompanying the gold bars indicated they were formed in the 1940s.
Venezuela’s National Assembly Finance Commission had previously charged the Maduro regime with selling more than 73 tons of gold, worth $3 billion, to companies in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
As of June, Venezuela still held 161 metric tons of gold, according to the World Gold Council.