Florida firm sues Venezuela for $34 million over unpaid bonds

CARACAS (Reuters) - A Florida firm has sued Venezuela for $34 million for defaulting on bonds that matured in 2018, according to a filing in a U.S. court on Tuesday, in what may be the first legal strike by a creditor since the OPEC nation broadly defaulted on its debt.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro stopped making payments on nearly all bonds issued by Venezuela and state oil company PDVSA this year and has accumulated some $8 billion in pending interest and principal.

Investors had taken few concrete actions in response until a group of creditors this month demanded payment on a $1.5 billion defaulted bond - though they have not yet taken their claim to court.

A little-known Coral Gables company called Casa Express Corp said in its complaint filed with U.S. District Court in Manhattan that it, via a trust of the same name, owns Venezuelan bonds with a face value of $29 million.

Venezuela failed to pay the principal when the bonds matured in August and also missed two interest payments this year, the complaint says.

Casa Express is seeking to recoup principal, interest, damages and legal fees, according to the complaint.

An attorney for Wallison & Wallison LLP, which represents the plaintiff, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

The state of Florida’s Division of Corporations shows Casa Express was created in 2015 and lists its registered agent as Luis Gamardo. Reuters was unable to obtain comment from Gamardo.

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Leslie Adler