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US keeping eye on gold smuggling from Venezuela – Kozak

Last Updated on Monday, 19 October 2020, 20:33 by Denis Chabrol

Acting Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Michael Kozak

United States Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs, Michael Kozak said his country was not aware that Venezuelan gold was being smuggled to Guyana to help prop up the Nicolas Maduro administration, but that illegally mined metal from that Spanish-speaking nation was ending up in the Middle East.

“In the case of other gold, though, it’s being illegally mined, damaging the environment, involving trafficking in persons issues and so on and we’ve put a special effort on trying to put a stop to that. We see a lot of it being smuggled to the Middle East,” he told a news briefing on the sidelines of the Organisation of American States’ (OAS) General Assembly.

Mr. Kozak said he did not know whether Venezuelan gold was being smuggled to Guyana or Suriname, but that the US was doing its best to cooperate with other governments “to put a stop to that.”

The US Assistant Secretary of State said his country was also working to stop the “usurper” from putting his hand on lawfully mined gold and selling that yellow metal from the Treasury.  The OAS would this week be pushing for approval of “strong resolutions” against Venezuela and “stronger action” against Cuba that has been allegedly helped the Maduro with resources and know-how on repression in Venezuela.

Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali recently said he was unaware that Venezuelan gold was being smuggled into Guyana and declared as having been produced in this country instead of its western neighbour. “I can’t pronounce on that issue right now because there is an ongoing analysis that is being done at the Gold Board,” he said.

Well-placed sources have told News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM / Demerara Waves Online News that there is no paper trail for gold miners to prove the source of the gold that they sell to the Guyana Gold Board or intend to export. The source explained that all that is required is proof that the person is a legitimate miner. The sources said they have been aware of persistent information in circulation that a good percentage of gold declared to the Guyana Gold Board is not produced in Guyana but is smuggled from Venezuela.

Sources have said  that the US and Guyanese law enforcement agencies, including those responsible for fighting financial crimes, have been keeping their eyes on two gold mining operations. Dossiers have been reportedly compiled on a number of miners and data shared with international partners.

Back in July, 2017, the Royal Canadian Mint, had dispatched a team to examine its compliance with anti-money laundering and countering of financing terrorism regimes, shortly after  a local gold dealer had been charged with an almost GYD$1 billion fraud involving two commercial banks.

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October 2020