(Reuters) - Venezuela’s opposition has asked a U.S. court to delay Canadian miner Crystallex’ plan to seize and sell shares in U.S. oil refiner Citgo [PDVSAC.UL], a subsidiary of Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela [PDVSA.UL].
Crystallex is seeking to collect on a $1.4 billion judgment for Venezuela’s expropriation of its assets under late socialist leader Hugo Chavez. Venezuela’s opposition, which took control of Citgo last year after Washington sanctioned PDVSA, sought to have a ruling in favor of Crystallex thrown out, but the U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to hear the case.
Late on Wednesday, representatives for opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by the United States and dozens of other countries as Venezuela’s rightful leader instead of President Nicolas Maduro, asked a federal court in Delaware to delay any sale until Crystallex is granted an explicit license from U.S. sanctions.
The U.S. Treasury Department in 2019 made clear that a specific license is needed to enforce a judgment ordering the sale of Venezuelan property on U.S. soil.
Carlos Vecchio, Guaido’s envoy to Washington, said he saw “no reason” the U.S. Treasury would grant Toronto-based Crystallex a license, and that preservation of Citgo was key to ensure an orderly debt restructuring process in a post-Maduro government.
“If the creditors want to get repaid, in my view the only scenario that they have is if we have a democratic transition inside of Venezuela,” Vecchio told reporters on Thursday.
The opposition argued that a ruling authorizing a sale ahead of the granting of such a license could benefit Maduro, a socialist who has overseen an economic collapse in the once-prosperous OPEC nation and stands accused of corruption and human rights violations.
Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a filing on Wednesday, Crystallex said a Citgo attachment was necessary because “Venezuela refuses to honor its debts voluntarily.”
Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Paul Simao