Venezuela could lose its largest U.S. asset after a court allowed a Canadian gold miner to seize shares of Citgo Petroleum Corp.’s parent to satisfy an arbitration award.
A U.S. appeals court ruled on Monday that Crystallex International Corp. may seize U.S.-based stock of Citgo’s parent, which is part of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, to cover a US$1.4 billion award over the nationalization of gold fields.
Unless reversed on appeal or blocked by the Trump administration, the decision would allow Crystallex to auction the shares to satisfy Venezuela’s unpaid debt to the Canadian company. That means the country, in the grip of its worst recession, could lose control of the refiner that processes Venezuelan crude into desperately needed hard currency.
It also complicates efforts by interim President Juan Guaido to retain control of Venezuelan assets including Citgo while waging a power struggle with current leader Nicolas Maduro for the leadership of the country. Guaido has asked U.S. President Donald Trump to bar creditors from seizing the country’s assets.
“At this stage, the only action that could stop Venezuela from losing Citgo is either a successful U.S. Supreme Court appeal, which appears unlikely, or a decision by Trump to issue an asset-protection order as Guaido has been requesting,” Francisco Rodriguez, chief economist for Torino Capital, said in an interview.
“The UN can also help,” added lawmaker Rafael Guzman, part of the opposition-led National Assembly’s finance committee. “We are going to push for all of them.”
Guaido and Maduro are battling for control of Citgo by naming conflicting board nominees for its owner, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA. A state-court judge in Delaware will decide who has legal right to appoint directors for the state-run oil company, which owns Citgo.