Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has asked the New York-based Citibank finance group to delay by 120 days Venezuela’s repurchase of gold granted by President Nicolas Maduro’s government as collateral for a loan in 2015, Reuters reported unnamed sources as saying on Wednesday.
The sources claimed that advisers to Guaido met Citibank officials to ask them to hold off claiming the gold if the Venezuelan government fails to pay off the loan before the end of March.
A Citibank spokesperson declined to comment on whether the bank would agree to Guaido’s request, with Venezuela’s Information Ministry and the central bank also keeping mum on the matter.
Almost four years ago, the Venezuelan government started using the so-called gold swap deals to obtain additional financing amid plummeting oil income in the face of sanctions.
The agreement allows a financial institution to keep the gold if the borrower fails to pay back the loan on time.
In late January, Guaido asked UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney not to return gold bullions worth about $1.6 billion to President Maduro's government.
Earlier, Bloomberg cited sources as saying that the Bank of England had denied Maduro's request to withdraw Venezuela's gold reserves after US State Secretary Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton lobbied the UK government to cut off the Venezuelan government's access to foreign assets.
According to a report filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) had sold $1.6 billion of gold to a British unit of Citibank, to be held at the Bank of England, in a gold swap deal that was clinched in 2015.
The report did not specify whether repurchasing the gold would cost more or less than the original $1.6 billion, saying that “the next such date will be in March 2019 at which time the BCV will be required to purchase a significant amount of gold from Citi under terms of the agreements”.
The United States immediately recognised Guaido, while Russia, China, Cuba, Bolivia and a number of other countries reaffirmed their support for Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela’s only legitimate president.