U.S., Libya Suspect Maduro-Haftar Gold Trade Scheme

  • Jul 10, 2020
  • Oil Price

The United States and Libya are probing a suspected scheme in which eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar is allegedly paying Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela U.S. dollars in exchange for gold, The Wall Street Journal reported, quoting Western and Libyan security officials.

Libya’s government, against which Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and affiliated factions are fighting in the civil war, has been tracking the commander’s private jet, which appears to have traveled to Venezuela’s capital, Caracas.

According to the investigations reported by the Journal, the plane is suspected of loading gold in Venezuela, delivering cash in U.S. dollars to Maduro’s regime, which is cut off from the international oil trade by strict U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. and the United Nations are assisting the Libyan government with tracking the movements of Haftar’s private jet, the Journal’s sources said.

Last month, David Schenker, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, said on a press briefing:

“I – we’ve been tracking those reports on Haftar’s trip – alleged trip to Venezuela. The allegations are concerning.”

“Haftar has been concerned his accounts could be frozen if he comes under sanctions” and would rather have gold, which is more difficult to track, a European security official told the Journal.

Haftar’s LNA and affiliated factions occupied Libya’s oil export terminals and oilfields in January, choking off Libyan oil exports and sending its production plunging to less than 100,000 bpd from 1.2 million before the blockade. 

Apart from the alleged gold trade with Libyan commander Haftar, Venezuela is also cooperating with Iran in a gold-for-services scheme, according to U.S. officials.

U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said earlier this year that Maduro’s regime is paying Iran in gold for help with Venezuela’s crumbling oil industry.

Iran is also sending tankers loaded with gasoline to Venezuela—shipments that U.S. federal prosecutors are trying to cut off. 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com