Maduro’s “Illicit” Gold Targeted by US Sanctions
The United States imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run gold mining company on Tuesday, accusing it of illicitly propping up the government of President Maduro.
The US Treasury claims Maduro has relied on an illegal mining boom in recent years with the profits generated by the gold mining company, Minerven, proving vital to maintaining the military’s support for the government.
“Treasury is targeting gold processor Minerven and its president for propping up the inner circle of the corrupt Maduro regime,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The announcement comes days after Uganda opened an investigation into US$300 million of unexplained gold suspected of originating with Maduro’s government. Flights this month from Caracas to Entebbe raised concerns that the government is smuggling gold out of the country and selling it to traders in Africa and the Middle East.
It is the sixth round of sanctions imposed by the U.S. since January as they attempt to wrest power away from Maduro and towards opposition leader Juan Guaido. Most Western countries have recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.
Venezuela’s gold industry is allegedly one of the country’s most lucrative financial schemes in recent years. Minerven is accused of purchasing high volumes of gold from local miners using the countries depreciated currency. The gold is then melted into bars and transported to the Central Bank of Venezuela.
Minerven could not be reached for comment.
“We will aggressively pursue those involved with Maduro’s reckless illicit gold trade which is contributing to this financial, humanitarian, and environmental crisis,” said Mnuchin.
Guaido has previously sought to prevent Venezuela’s gold sales arguing that Maduro uses the proceeds to prevent economic collapse.
The country’s ongoing economic crisis, combined with severe hyperinflation, has forced the country to reduce imports and caused severe shortages of food and medicines for citizens.