An international trafficking of gold to circumvent sanctions and guarantee the lifeblood of Nicolas Maduro’s government. This is, according to a joint investigation, the explanation of the strange routes made by planes of the Khalifa Haftar fleet to Caracas. Traffic on which, according to Wall Street Journal, an investigation has been opened by the Libyan national agreement government, led by Fayez al Serraj, and the United States administration. According to the interception made by Tripoli and Washington with the help of the United Nations, the general’s private jet would be suspected of having brought gold out of Venezuela to bring it to West Africa and then to Europe and the Middle East. The investigation, nicknamed “gold for cash”, was launched on the initiative of the Libyan Interior Minister, Fathi Bashagha, and would highlight a violation of international sanctions against Venezuela, whose regime is subject to restrictive measures by the US in response to repeated violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Illicit trafficking made possible thanks to the help of the head of the leader of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (ENL) who since 4 April 2019 has engaged in a war against the forces of the GNA, the Libyan government recognized by the international community. “Venezuela is under American sanctions and we had a duty to open an investigation,” says Bashagha. The State Department had previously publicly stated that it was tracing the routes that would confirm the strange traffic of Haftar’s jets on Caracas. “These are suspicions of concern,” said David Schenker, assistant to secretary Mike Pompeo, on 11 June.
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The Maduro government is under strong pressure due to the serious economic crisis that is tearing the country apart, but also due to international sanctions and external pressure, in particular from the United States, with which it would like a change of leadership in favor of Juan Guaidó, current point of opposition reference. Maduro has already received aid from countries considered non-aligned with the US, including Iran, Russia, China, but the pandemic and the collapse of crude oil prices, with the repercussions on exports of the Latin American country, have forced Caracas to put their hands in gold reserves to guarantee the liquidity necessary to keep an already seriously depressed system going. In this sense, Haftar would have come to the rescue, whose jets loaded with gold outbound would have returned to Caracas full of dollars. All in exchange for a commission, the sources explain, perceived by the general and useful for carrying out his prolonged and less and less probable military campaign against Tripoli. A “stick” that may have been cashed directly in gold, according to an anonymous European official quoted by the American newspaper: “Haftar is worried that his accounts may be frozen on the basis of international sanctions”.
According to the tracks recorded by the C4ADS observer, the general’s jet was intercepted for the first time on 24 April, before flying three days later to Switzerland and early May to the United Arab Emirates, one of Haftar’s international sponsors. Similar movements would then be intercepted again on June 7th. It was initially thought that illegal oil trafficking was hidden behind the strange routes with the help of Dubai intermediaries. Or even that Haftar was preparing his golden escape to the Latin American country in case the situation plummeted in Libya. The “gold for cash” investigation, however, would have highlighted other links made possible, according to the WSJ, by Mustafa Zadi, former Minister of Health of Muammar Gaddafi, who had developed links with Caracas gilding the 2011 revolution that led to the deposition and the death of the Libyan leader.
After the fall, Zadi started a loyalist movement called the “Libyan People’s National Movement” which now supports Haftar. Although Zadi claims that he has not maintained relations with Caracas, in some Facebook posts of the Movement he founded, he expresses support for Diosdado Cabello, the president of the Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly sought by the United States for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking. Support to which Cabello replied, always on social media, expressing heartfelt thanks.