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Citigroup bankers have been holding talks with U.S. Treasury officials to figure out how to handle a gold deal they had arranged with Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela, people familiar with the matter said.
The deal — a $1.1 billion swaps contract backed by gold held by the Venezuelan central bank — was struck before the U.S. stepped up sanctions on Maduro’s government. But it’s due to expire early next month and Citigroup bankers are seeking to make sure they avoid making a move now that would violate the sanctions, according to Senator Marco Rubio and other U.S. and Venezuelan officials familiar with the matter.
“The one thing, no banker, global or financial institution is going to do is run the risk of secondary sanctions,” Rubio, who’s been helping drive the U.S. push to oust Maduro, said in a telephone interview late Wednesday. “The sale of gold is another revenue source that the Maduro regime is using and I know for a fact that Citibank has had multiple meetings with Treasury seeking guidance, trying to figure out how to avoid exposure.”
Daniel Diaz, a spokesman for Citigroup, declined to comment as did a Treasury spokesman, who cited department policy on refraining from talking about individual cases.
The four-year swaps contract — which handed Venezuela a loan in exchange for putting the gold up as collateral — matures on March 11. Because the cash-strapped Maduro regime is unlikely to come up with the money it had received in the deal, Citigroup could wind up getting the gold. Allies of Juan Guaido, the legislator who’s trying to take power from Maduro with the help of the U.S. and other countries, are lobbying the bank to not take possession of it as part of their effort to safeguard the nation’s dwindling assets.
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