Venezuela will sell 15 tonnes of gold from central bank vaults to the United Arab Emirates in the coming days in return for euros in cash, a senior official with knowledge of the plan said, in an effort by the troubled OPEC member to stay solvent.
The sale this year of gold reserves began with a shipment on 26 January of three tonnes, Reuters reported the official saying, and follows the export last year of $900 million of mostly unrefined gold to Turkey.
In total, the plan is to sell 29 tonnes of gold held in Caracas by February, the source said, requesting anonymity in order to speak freely. Venezuela had reserves of 132 tonnes between the central bank's vaults and the Bank of England at the end of November, according to central bank data.
The government of President Nicolas Maduro resorted to selling off gold after falling oil production, the country's wider economic collapse and mounting US sanctions hit public income and made it hard for the country to access credit.
The United States, which is backing an attempt by the opposition to force Maduro to step down and call new elections, warned bankers and traders on Wednesday not to deal in Venezuelan gold.
Republican US Senator Marco Rubio sent a tweet to the United Arab Emirates embassy in Washington yesterday warning that anybody transporting Venezuelan gold would be subject to US sanctions.
.@UAEEmbassyUS, we have reports that a French national working for @noor_capital is in Caracas today to arrange for the theft of more Gold from #Venezuela. I hope you have advised them that they & any air charter service that does this will be subject to Treasury sanctions.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 31, 2019
Neither the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Colombia, which covers Venezuela, or the central bank responded immediately to requests for comment.