Venezuela really wants its $550 million worth of gold back from the Bank of England

The deepening economic crisis in Venezuela means the government really wants to repatriate its gold reserves, worth more than $500 million.

Reuters reported on Monday that Venezuelan authorities had approached the Bank of England about getting back approximately 15 tons of gold bullion held in the bank’s vaults. It’s common for emerging-market governments to store gold within the central banks of more developed economies.

Citing two sources with direct knowledge of the operation, Reuters said that the plans related to recently announced sanctions by the US aimed at disrupting the South American country’s gold exports.

President Donald Trump last week signed an executive order to bar US persons from dealing with entities and people involved with “corrupt or deceptive” gold sales from Venezuela.

Read more: 10 pictures reveal the huge amounts of cash Venezuelans need to buy everyday things

It is unclear whether Venezuela now has the gold held by the Bank of England. Reuters described a public official as saying the bank had “sought to clarify” what Venezuela plans to do with the gold.

The Bank of England declined to comment to Business Insider.

Venezuela has in recent years been a major seller of gold, and this year alone it has sold about 26 tons, worth close to $900 million, to Turkey. In the past four years, Venezuela’s gold reserves have decreased to about 175 tons from about 400 tons, Reuters reported, citing statistics from the country’s central bank.

Venezuela has been selling its sizeable gold reserves, built up under Hugo Chavez, to try to address the economic crisis plaguing the country. Hyperinflation of goods means everyday items are unaffordable for many Venezuelans, and poverty and violence are widespread.

A report from the International Monetary Fund in July said Venezuela’s economy was expected to contract by about 18% this year, while inflation was forecast to reach a whopping 1 million percent.

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