CARACAS (Reuters) – At least 8 tons of gold were removed from the Venezuelan central bank’s vaults last week, an opposition legislator and three government sources told Reuters, in the latest sign of President Nicolas Maduro’s desperation to raise hard currency amid tightening sanctions.
The gold was removed in government vehicles between Wednesday and Friday last week when there were no regular security guards present at the bank, Legislator Angel Alvarado and the three government sources said.
“They plan to sell it abroad illegally,” Alvarado said in an interview.
The central bank did not respond to requests for comment.
Alvarado and the government sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not say where the central bank was sending the gold. They said the operation took place while central bank head Calixto Ortega was abroad on a trip.
In 2018, 23 tons of mined gold were transported from Venezuela to Istanbul by plane, according to sources and Turkish government data.
The central bank bought part of this gold from primitive gold-mining camps in the south of Venezuela and exported it to Turkey and other countries to finance the purchase of basic food supplies, given widespread shortages, according to more than 30 people with knowledge of the trade.