A Portuguese court ordered Novo Banco SA to reimburse around €1.35 billion ($1.48 billion) to nine entities controlled by Venezuela’s socialist government.
(Bloomberg) — A Portuguese court ordered Novo Banco SA to reimburse around €1.35 billion ($1.48 billion) to nine entities controlled by Venezuela’s socialist government.
According to the ruling, dated July 31 but published Aug. 8, the bank must transfer the funds to accounts held by Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA, Bandes bank and other state entities.
The decision brings to an end a five-year conflict that was aggravated by Portugal’s decision to recognize a parallel Venezuelan government set up in 2019 by opposition lawmaker Juan Guaidó, even as President Nicolás Maduro retained his grip on power.
When Guaidó failed to achieve his goal of ousting Maduro, many allies had second thoughts. Portugal sent an Ambassador back to Caracas last year.
The Maduro government has made great efforts to recover its overseas assets, including going to court in the UK to recover roughly $2 billion in gold stored in the Bank of England. London has also stopped recognizing Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. The case is ongoing.
READ: Venezuela’s $2 Billion UK Gold Case Sent Back to Lower Court
It’s still unclear whether the Venezuela opposition will appeal the ruling, or whether Maduro will be able to access the funds given the US sanctions regime.
“It’s not that this money is going to arrive in Venezuela tomorrow, because, and that is a fact, Bandes bank is sanctioned and it’s the owner of the funds,” said William Castillo, a Maduro official in charge of fighting sanctions, through state television. “It’s a judicial victory that allows us to set a precedent for the legal fight Venezuela has against sanctions and blockade.”
Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly is expected to release a statement in coming hours. Novo Banco’s press department didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment outside regular business hours.
The money held by Novo Banco represents about 30% of Venezuela’s international reserves, excluding special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund which the country can’t currently access.
(Adds Castillo’s comments in seventh, opposition’s release details in eighth paragraph)
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