The Bloomberg news agency has cited Venezuelan lawmaker Jose Guerra as tweeting on Tuesday that a Russian Boeing 777 plane had landed in Caracas the day before to spirit away 20 tonnes of gold from the vaults of the country’s central bank.
The claim sparked outrage and social media speculation even though Guerra provided no evidence when asked how he knew this, Bloomberg reported.
According to the Ukrainian Pravda website, a Russian Boeing 777 plane was this week reported as flying out of Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport to the Venezuelan capital with two crew, but without passengers.
The pravda.com.ua website quoted Venezuela’s National Assembly, which is in opposition to the country’s President Nicolas Maduro, as saying on Twitter: “We have received information from officials at the Central Bank of Venezuela: A plane has arrived from Moscow with an intention to take away at least 20 tonnes of gold. We demand details from the Central Bank of Venezuela about what is happening. This gold does not belong to Calixto Ortega [the head of the country’s central bank], but to the Venezuelan people.”
The Bloomberg news agency described Guerra as a former central bank economist who remains in touch with old colleagues there.
It also quoted “a person with direct knowledge of the matter” as saying that 20 tonnes of gold have been set aside in the central bank for loading.
Worth some USD 840 million, the gold represents about 20 percent of the bank’s holdings of the precious metal in Venezuela, Bloomberg reported, citing the source, whom it did not name.
Venezuela owes billions to its patrons Russia and China as well as bondholders, and it also needs money to buy food for its starving people, the news agency reported.
Poland’s foreign ministry last week called for “the respect of fundamental civic freedoms” in Venezuela, where a political crisis has escalated in recent days amid growing efforts by the opposition to unseat the country's socialist president.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president last Wednesday, winning the backing of Washington and many Latin American nations, and prompting socialist Maduro, who has led the oil-rich nation since 2013, to sever diplomatic relations with the United States, the Reuters news agency reported.
Russia, meanwhile, has supported Maduro, according to news reports.
At least 40 people are believed to have been killed in recent violence in Venezuela, including 26 shot by pro-government forces and 11 during looting, the United Nations’ human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, said on Tuesday, as cited by Reuters.
Source: Bloomberg, Reuters, pravda.com.ua