Venezuela's 20-ton pile of gold in suspense in Caracas vault


By Patricia Laya
Bloomberg News
Thursday, January 31, 2019

With 20 tons of gold stacked up for loading and shipping out of Venezuelan vaults, the mystery surrounding them -- and the saber-rattling they're sparking -- is intensifying.

The Russian airplane that a Venezuelan lawmaker alleged was in Caracas to spirit the gold away left the country without it. But now a cargo plane has landed from Dubai, triggering a new wave of speculation that the gold is headed there instead.

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As Nicolas Maduro, the authoritarian ruler, tries to stave off mounting international pressure to relinquish power, the fate of those gold bars has become a cause of great concern both in Venezuela and abroad. Valued at about $850 million, they are an important source of wealth in a country that has plunged into extreme poverty under Maduro's leadership.

On Thursday, Marco Rubio, the Florida senator who has helped spearhead the U.S.'s hard-line stance toward the Maduro regime, fired off a tweet calling out the United Arab Emirates' Noor Capital as the financial firm orchestrating the gold transaction with Venezuelan authorities. Rubio went on to warn the firm that both it and any airline it hires to take the gold away will be subject to U.S. Treasury sanctions.

As of late today the 20 tons had yet to leave the central bank, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. They had, though, been weighed and separated for shipment, the person said. He did not know where the gold might be heading or the nature of the transaction. The cargo plane was still at the airport in Caracas, according to the website Flightradar24.

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