Citigroup Inc. will sell several tons of Venezuelan gold it received as collateral from the Maduro regime to settle the nation’s billion-dollar loan debt, marking a major financial blow to the dictator’s embattled rule.
Venezuela’s Central Bank missed a deadline on March 11 to repay Citigroup $1.1billion of their $1.6billion loan signed back in 2015, four sources familiar with the matter said.
Now that the deadline has passed, Citigroup will sell off the collateral gold Venezuela gave them, valued at roughly $1.358billion, to recover the loan amount.
The excess $258million made in the sale will then be deposited into a U.S. bank account in New York, as per two sources.
Citigroup will sell several tons of Venezuelan gold worth $1.4billion after the Maduro regime missed a deadline to buy it back as a part of their 2015 financial deal in exchange for a $1.6billion loan
That money won’t be accessible to Maduro’s regime, and as a further hit, it could be handed over to the transitional government’s leader Juan Guaido, according to Bloomberg.
Maduro’s government has used financial operations known as gold swaps since 2014 where they offer gold as collateral to tap into international reserves to access cash.
Back in 2015, Venezuela agreed to give Citibank the ‘significant volume of gold’ and to buy it back in March 2019 in order to obtain a $1.6billion loan. Citibank claimed that following the transaction, it owned the gold.
The government used the swap after the country experienced a slump in revenue following sluggish oil sales that created a lack of hard currency in Venezuela.
But over the past two years the country has struggled to recover its collateral.
Maduro depleted more than 40 percent of the country’s gold reserved last year trying to pay creditors and fund government programs in the midst of the crippled economy.
Venezuela’s financial crisis is coupled with his political instability where control of the government and military is split between long-time dictator Nicolas Maduro and the National Assembly’s newly declared president Juan Guaido.
Most Western nations are standing behind opposition leader Guaido following Maduro’s fraud-ridden elections where he declared himself president.
In the midst of the crisis, U.S.-backed support has helped Guaido gain control of the state’s oil company PDVSA’s U.S. refinery subsidiary.
Despite attempts to negotiate a 120-day extension over repurchasing the collateral, Citibank went head to sell the gold.
‘Citibank was told that there was a force majeure event in Venezuela, so the grace period was necessary, but they did not grant it,’ one of the sources on Guaido’s team said.
A source inside the Venezuelan government confirmed that the nation’s Central Bank did not transfer the loan money to Citibank this month.
Citigroup will sell the gold to earn their loan amount back and will store the $258million made in excess in the sale in a U.S. bank that will be untouchable to Maduro and could be handed over to the transitional government’s leader Juan Guaido (above)
Guaido is now attempting to freeze bank accounts and gold owned by Venezuela abroad. Much of their riches is stored in the Bank of England.
In January the nation faced a major financial setback when the Bank of England denied Maduro’s request to withdraw $1.2billion of gold stored in its vaults, according to Fox.
Knowing that, sources say the Central Bank had no incentive to repay Citibank.
As Guaido tries to guide the country out of turmoil, his team has been preparing this month for a potential debt restructuring plan to ease payments and stop hostile creditors, according to two sources.
‘We want to address the debt in a comprehensive way. We calculate that it totals $200billion,’ one source said.
In meets Guaido’s team as been meeting with legal advisers in the U.S. and had renegotiations with Venezuelan bondholders as well as the Chinese and Russian governments.