(Adds background, request for comment to Guaido representative)
July 29 (Reuters) - A U.S. federal appeals court on Monday rejected an appeal by Venezuela’s state-owned oil company to set aside an order allowing a Canadian gold mining company to seize shares in its U.S. refining unit, Citgo Petroleum Corp .
Crystallex International Corp had won the $1.4 billion judgment as compensation for the expropriation of its assets in Venezuela under late leftist President Hugo Chavez. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said a lower court was right to attach Petroleos de Venezuela’s shares of its U.S. unit, which owns Citgo.
“The District Court acted within its jurisdiction when it issued a writ of attachment on PDVSA’s shares of PDVH to satisfy Crystellex’s judgment against Venezuela, and the PDVH shares are not immune from attachment,” Judge Leonard Stark wrote, referring to PDVSA’s U.S. unit.
It was not immediately clear whether PDVSA will ask the court to reconsider the decision, or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Neither PDVSA nor Venezuela’s oil ministry immediately responded to requests for comment.
The court had allowed arguments from lawyers representing Juan Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly. In January, Guaido invoked Venezuela’s constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing the 2018 re-election of President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s socialist protege, was illegitimate.
Guaido has been recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by dozens of countries, including the United States, and has appointed an ad-hoc board of directors to take control of Citgo. Maduro calls him a U.S. puppet seeking to oust him in a coup.
Jose Ignacio Hernandez, who Guaido has tapped as a special prosecutor responsible for protecting Venezuela’s assets abroad, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The decision was also a blow to investors holding PDVSA’s 2020 bond, for which the company had pledged half of Citgo shares as collateral. Maduro’s government had remained current on that bond even as it defaulted on most other debt in order to avoid losing control of Citgo.
The opposition in May made a $71 million interest payment on the bond to stave off seizure, but there is another $913 million payment due on Oct. 27. The bond is now trading at just 68 cents on the dollar, down from nearly 90 cents as of early July, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.
Venezuela had pledged the remaining shares in Citgo to Russian state oil company Rosneft as collateral on a $1.5 billion loan to PDVSA. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York and Luc Cohen in Caracas Editing by Paul Simao)