Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Venezuela’s leaders of stealing nine tons of gold ($500 million worth) from the country’s reserve and shipping the bars to longtime ally Iran. Pompeo said in a tweet on May 2 that “thugs” from the regime of Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro “looted” nine tons of gold bars and sent them to Iran, claiming Venezuela’s leaders were “partnering with the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.”
Maduro’s thugs looted nine tons of gold bars and sent it to the Iranian regime. The world’s leading thieves are partnering with the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. The greatest victims are the Venezuelan and Iranian people. pic.twitter.com/EP7iP6FVJx
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 2, 2020
The gold was a payment to Iran for its support of Venezuela’s gasoline refineries.
Iranian jets flew in parts, technicians, and gasoline additives to repair a major refinery in Venezuela, and then left with the gold.
Elliott Abrams, an envoy who leads U.S. efforts to topple Venezuela’s leader, said Iran has been sending more air support to the South American Nation.
“Our guess is that they are being paid in gold,” he told Washington think tank Hudson Institute.
“Those planes that are coming in from Iran that are bringing things for the oil industry are returning with the payments for those things: gold.”
The United States has warned bankers and traders not to accept Venezuelan gold. Venezuela has $6.3 billion hard-currency assets left, which Bloomberg calls a 30 year low.
Maduro’s pedecssor Hugo Chavez turned much of the country’s assets into gold. In 2011, Chavez brought in $11 billion worth of gold bars from storage in other countries. With economic crises compounding, Venezuela is seeking to sell some of its gold to fund imports and avoid defaulting on foreign debt.
Between late 2019 and early 2020, Maduro ordered the removal of some six tons of gold from the central bank vaults to raise more hard currency for his regime.