Novo Banco

Novo Banco lets courts decide who Venezuela’s €1.5 billion belongs to

Novo Banco has said it is up to the courts to decide the (long-running) controversy over who the billion-plus dollars/ euros in Venezuelan deposits held in Portugal actually belongs to.

A little over a year ago, UN special rapporteur Alena Douhan added her voice to the chorus of demands to release the money to the Bolivarian regime (click here).

Uncomfortable as it may be to some, the money belongs to the Venezuelan people – and the country needs it desperately.

Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro has been calling for the various millions to be released for years.

Due to attempts to topple his regime (which failed), he has always come up against a brick wall.

Last year, minister for foreign affairs August Santos Silva insisted release of money held in Portugal was not a decision that could be taken at government level. It was a “matter for Europe and the European Central Bank”, he told reporters.

Since then, ‘nada’, or apparently so. Until Monday, that is, when Nicolás Maduro brought the whole drama up once again at a UN meeting on Human Rights, in which he listed, country by country, the territories holding on to Venezuelan assets.

Portugal is not the only one; the UK, he claims, has ‘sequestered’ 31 tonnes of gold “belonging to legal and historic Venezuelan reserves”; Citibank “illegally” transferred hundreds of millions from the Central Bank of Venezuela, while the International Monetary Fund is holding back on €5 billion in special drawing rights. As a result, Venezuela is unable to purchase vaccines (against Covid-19), medication in general, and other essentials, says the country’s leader.

But while his words have not changed, something must have, because finally ‘Portugal has spoken’ – at least, Novo Banco has spoken.

Says Lusa, the bank is “clarifying that all amounts held by Venezuelan state entities that were deposited with Novo Banco are currently in the process of a judicial consignment of funds on deposit, given the existence of doubts about the identity of the legitimate representatives of these entities”.

“Novo Banco says it will be up to the courts to decide on the deposits of Venezuelan entities, with legal proceedings currently underway due to doubts about the legitimate representatives of the entities in question”, says the State news agency – adding, that “according to the bank, the exception is some amounts that were previously judicially unavailable”

In 2020, Jornal de Negócios reported that the Lisbon Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by Venezuela against Novo Banco, validating the bank’s decision to close accounts of Venezuelan state-owned companies and keep the money deposited there ‘frozen’, preventing movement, when an investigation is underway into alleged money laundering and who the real end recipients of the accounts are.

Lusa/ Portugal Resident