Bank Of England Refuses To Release Venezuela's Gold After US Lobbying

With Maduro desperately clinging to power in Venezuela - albeit protected by Russian "security contractors" - The Bank of England just 'virtue-signaled' another jab in the socialist utopia's back by confirming its refusal to hand over Venezuela's gold from its vaults.

Bloomberg reports that Maduro's embattled regime, desperate to hold onto the dwindling cash pile it has abroad, was stymied in its bid to pull $1.2 billion worth of gold out of the Bank of England, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Bank of England’s (BoE) decision to deny Maduro officials’ withdrawal request comes after top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, lobbied their U.K. counterparts to help cut off the regime from its overseas assets, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified.

Mike Krieger recently dug into the gold part of the Venezuelan coup saga. In case you forgot, Hugo Chavez didn’t make any friends in the empire back in 2011 when he repatriated around 160 tonnes of gold from banks in the United States and Europe. But the story doesn’t end there. As Reuters reports:

The government of Nicolas Maduro has since last year been seeking to repatriate about $550 million in gold from the Bank of England on fears it could be caught up in international sanctions on the country.

Its holdings at the bank more than doubled in December to 31 tonnes, or around $1.3 billion, after Venezuela returned funds it had borrowed from Deutsche Bank AG through a financing arrangement that uses gold as collateral, known as a swap, one of the sources said.

Venezuela last year started carrying out gold barter operations with Turkey to import food following U.S. sanctions that have made international banks reluctant to handle Venezuelan transactions.

The motivation for paying back the funds from the Deutsche swap was not immediately evident. But redeeming the swap would give Venezuela more gold for barter operations with Turkey…

Calixto Ortega, president of Venezuela’s central bank, met with Bank of England officials in December to discuss repatriating the gold but was unable to convince them, according to sources familiar with the situation.

As Krieger notes, it appears the U.S. does not take kindly to nations using gold for barter...

Venezuela last year started carrying out gold barter operations with Turkey to import food following U.S. sanctions that have made international banks reluctant to handle Venezuelan transactions.

...and it appears The Bank of England has no intent to release any gold to any nation not deemed appropriate by Washington.

Back in November, the reason the BoE gave for its initial refusal to release was due to its insistence that standard measures to prevent money-laundering be taken - "including clarification of the Venezuelan government’s intentions 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 newspaper said.

Separately, as we reported previously an official told Reuters that the repatriation plan has been held up for nearly two months due to difficulty in obtaining insurance for the shipment, needed to move a large gold cargo:

“They are still trying to find insurance coverage, because the costs are high,” an official told Reuters.

As we reported, Venezuela’s gold located at the BoE was previously used as collateral until last year, backing loans up to several billion dollars from global banks - most notably Deutsche Bank.

As Reuters notes, Venezuelan holdings at the BoE more than doubled in December to 31 tonnes, or around $1.3 billion, after Venezuela returned funds it had borrowed from Deutsche Bank AG through a financing arrangement that uses gold as collateral, known as a swap, one of the sources said.

Under the deal struck with Deutsche Bank in 2015, Venezuela put up 17 tonnes of gold in exchange for a loan, according to one of the sources who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

The motivation for paying back the funds from the Deutsche swap was not immediately evident. But redeeming the swap would give Venezuela more gold for barter operations with Turkey.

U.S. officials are now trying to steer Venezuela’s overseas assets to Guaido to help bolster his chances of effectively taking control of the government. The $1.2 billion of gold is a big chunk of the $8 billion in foreign reserves held by the Venezuelan central bank. The whereabouts of much of it is unknown.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that officials at the central bank in Caracas have been ordered to no longer try contacting the Bank of England. These central bankers have been told that Bank of England staffers will not respond to them, citing compliance reasons, said a Venezuelan official, who asked not to be identified because he’s not authorized to speak publicly.

The Bank of England declined to comment on its handling of Venezuelan gold, saying it “provides banking services – including gold custody services – to a large number of customers” and “does not comment on any of those relationships.” The State Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment and an NSC spokesman declined to comment. A press official for Maduro also declined to comment.

Finally, we note that Venezuela has made a concerted effort to become a major gold exporter, and is engaged in certifying some 32 gold fields, and building 54 processing plants in a bid to become what Maduro said would be "the second largest gold reserve on Earth."