February 15, 2019 / 9:20 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Venezuela's Guaido asks Citibank to freeze gold swap with Maduro -lawmaker

(Adds quote, details on swap, context on Venezuela)

By Mayela Armas

CARACAS, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Advisers to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido are asking Citibank not to claim gold put up as collateral for a loan to the government of President Nicolas Maduro if his administration does not make payments on time, a lawmaker said on Friday.

Citi would be entitled to keep the gold if cash-strapped Venezuela does not pay the loan when it expires in March, lawmaker Angel Alvarado said, without specifying the value of the gold in question.

Allies of Guaido, who has been recognized by the United States and more than 40 countries across the world as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, is asking the bank not to invoke the guarantee.

“Citibank has been asked to stand by and not invoke the guarantee until the end of the usurpation,” Alvarado said in an interview. “We don’t want to lose the gold.”

The gold is worth $1.1 billion, according to a finance industry source with knowledge of the situation.

Opposition leaders say Maduro usurped power last month when he was sworn in to a second term after a disputed election widely described as a sham.

Investment bank and financial services company Citigroup , which owns Citibank, declined to comment.

Abu Dhabi investment firm Noor Capital said in February that it bought 3 tonnes of gold from Venezuela’s central bank, but would halt further transactions until the country’s situation stabilizes.

Guaido has also asked British authorities to prevent Maduro from gaining access to gold reserves held in the Bank of England, which holds around $1.2 billion in bullion for Maduro’s government.

The Bank of England has said it does not comment on client operations. (Reporting by Mayela Armas Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Sandra Maler and Susan Thomas)

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