By: Denise Simon | Founders Code
Remember that Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, is a virtual puppet of Cuba. Going back years, during the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, Chavez hosted President Yoweri Museveni, then president of Uganda. Cuba was known over the years to give scholarships to Ugandans. The relationship is long and deep.
Then as recently as February of 2019, the Kampala is allegedly investigating that top Venezuelan politicians are using Ugandan passports to smuggle key people out of Venezuela into China and possibly other countries that stand with the Maduro regime.
Further, Venezuela attempted to remove some of its gold reserves parked in Britain, worth an estimated $1.2 billion but were denied at the behest of the United States. The 8 tons gold residing in Venezuela was in fact removed this past February to an unknown location. However, in 2018, at least 23 tonnes of mined gold was transported from Venezuela to Turkey by plane.
Maduro is attempting to sell gold on the international market to pay for basic needs for his country’s elite. Last February, an Abu Dhabi company known as Noor Capital bought 3 tons of Venezuelan gold. Since oil production in Venezuela has dropped significantly and sales on the global market have dropped, gold is the next avenue to generate immediate funds.
China and Russia are looking for exclusive oil deals from Venezuela due to the US sanctions. In fact, PDVSA, the Venezuelan oil operation is opening an office in Russia.
Refinery (AGR), the country’s largest refinery, Reuters reported on Wednesday. AGR confirmed that the gold arrived from South America but rejected claims of smuggling.
“All our transactions are legal and well documented,” the company said in a statement to OCCRP, dismissing the allegations as “fake news.”
Fred Enanga, a spokesman for Uganda’s police, told Reuters that AGR received two shipments of 3.8 and 3.6 tonnes at the beginning of March however neither passed through official customs entry points.
Police raided AGR premises on March 7 but found the lighter batch had disappeared.
Flights this month from Caracas to Entebbe have raised suspicions that Nicolas Maduro’s government is smuggling gold out of the country and selling it to traders in Africa and the Middle East in an attempt to prop up its sanctions-hit economy.
An airline source told The Times that a European charter company was contracted to fly four tonnes of gold from Caracas to Entebbe early this year.
The Venezuelan opposition previously claimed a jet owned by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza transported gold to Greece. Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s prime minister, is one of the few European leaders still supporting Maduro.
Venezuela’s ambassador to Greece, Freddy Fernández, denied the reports.
“It is foolish to believe that the Venezuelan foreign minister himself was taking the gold out of the country. The story is part of a concerted attack against our country,” he told the Greek news outlet Efimerida ton Syntakton.
Investigators are looking to establish where the gold came from, who owns it and how it was shipped into the country, he said.
Uganda has become a regional smuggling hub for gold with corruption and widespread mismanagement proving profitable for officials and international investors, a report from Global Witness claims.
AGR was accused of facilitating gold smuggling from conflict regions in the Democratic Republic of Congo in an investigation by The Sentry, an African financial investigations organization co-founded by actor George Clooney.
AGR Chief Executive Officer, Alain Goetz denied the accusations, calling it “yet another pathetic attempt to destroy the much-needed reforms and changes needed in the African gold industry.”