Venezuela to calculate damages caused by Novo Banco account freeze

  • Lusa
  • 11 August 2023

The Portuguese courts had decided to unblock more than €1.3bn that was held in Portugal in accounts of Venezuelan institutions and companies at Novo Banco.

The Venezuelan government will determine the extent of the damage caused by the retention of Venezuelan assets by Novo Banco and will use the recent Portuguese court decision to order the return in other international cases as a reference.

The Venezuelan government’s position was made known by the Venezuelan Attorney General, Reinaldo Muñoz Predoza, in statements to Venezuelan state television (VTV), during which he explained that Caracas “continues to defend itself in all arbitrations”, including in the US and England.

“In the specific case of Novo Banco, you cannot hide the fact that the damage is much greater (…) We have to prove from now on, in the next few days, if the bank was aware of this damage it was causing,” he said.

Venezuela wants to know if this damage “was deliberate” or if Novo Banco “was simply following instructions from a foreign state or from lawyers of people, Venezuelan politicians who, in recent years, have been committed to causing this suffering” to the people of Venezuela.

The prosecutor explained that the decision of the Lisbon court “is quite clear, it does not give rise to confusion” by stating “that the only legitimate government is that of the President [Nicolás Maduro]”, that its representatives “are appointed in accordance with Venezuelan legislation and internal ordinance, the laws and acts of the Venezuelan government”, and that there were those who arrived at the trial saying they were representatives and were not.

According to the prosecutor, the unblocked money will be returned to the depositary entities that will now be able to fulfil the obligations for which those resources were intended.

On the other hand, the Deputy Minister of Anti-Blockade Policies, William Castillo, explained to Venezuelan state television that the court’s decision recognises Nicolás Maduro as the constitutional President of Venezuela.

“The decision means a political and legal victory for Venezuela because there are several lawsuits and the fact that a court in Portugal says that Venezuela is right, that the constitutional government of Nicolás Maduro is the depositary, user and owner of these resources on behalf of the people (…) sets a precedent for a number of lawsuits”, he explained to VTV.

According to William Castillo, the Venezuelan government has entered “a new stage” with this precedent “for the legal, political and judicial struggle that Venezuela has in the face of international sanctions and blockade”.

“It is a long, difficult struggle because the damage of the sanctions is very serious, but all Venezuelans (…) must know that Venezuela’s commitment is this [to recover resources] and that there is not a single leader in the opposition with the credibility to offer something better for the country”, he emphasised.

The Venezuelan government announced on Wednesday that the Portuguese courts had decided to unblock more than €1.3bn that was held in Portugal in accounts of Venezuelan institutions and companies at Novo Banco.

According to Caracas, this is “a clear and forceful victory” in the face of a strategy of “appropriation” of resources from Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), the Bank for Economic and Social Development (BANDES), Banco Bandes Uruguai SA, Petrocedeño, Pdvsa Services BV, Petromonágas, Petropiar and Bariven, which were “illegally withheld”.

On Thursday, Novo Banco noted that the court decision “was expected” and that it “does not expect” there to be “an impact on liquidity or capital ratios” as a result of the judgement.

The sentence, the bank stressed in a response sent to Lusa, “clarifies issues that the bank had raised, on its own initiative, with the Portuguese courts due to doubts regarding the legal representation of Venezuelan public entities”.

The bank added that due to the legal duties imposed on banking institutions, “it could not proceed with any bank transfers until these doubts were clarified”.

The funds were withheld after opposition leader Juan Guaidó publicly declared in January 2019 that he would assume the role of interim president of Venezuela until Nicolás Maduro was removed from power, which was supported by more than 50 countries, including Portugal.

In April 2019, President Nicolás Maduro urged the Portuguese government to unblock Venezuelan state assets held at Novo Banco, claiming that the funds would be used to buy “medicines and food”.