On January 31, 2019, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that Russia may have helped Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro sell Venezuela's gold. It stated that on January 29, a Boeing 757 cargo plane loaded with gold took off from Moscow and flew via Dubai, where it unloaded the gold and U.S. dollars were taken on, and then it took off again and flew via Morocco and Venezuela with cash, to finance Maduro.
According to the report, the gold had had been deposited by Venezuela in Russia's Central Bank. However, Russian Central Bank director Elvira Nabiullina denied that the bank was holding Venezuelan gold.
It is worth noting that previously, on January 28, at 2:00 PM, a passengerless Boeing 777 belonging to the Russian Nordwind charter airlines, took off on Flight 9801 from Moscow's Vnukovo airport for Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. Nordwind normally flies to Russian tourist destinations in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. The plane returned to Moscow from Thailand on the morning of January 29, and then departed again for Caracas, after refueling and taking on board two crew members. According to Flightradar24.com, it was expected to land in Caracas at 8:00 PM local time.
On January 29, the Venezuela National Assembly tweeted remarks by Venezuelan MP Jose Guerra who said that 20 tons of gold had left Venezuela en route to Moscow. MP Guerra said: "We have received information from officials at the Central Bank of Venezuela: A plane arrived from Moscow, with the intention of taking away at least 20 tons of gold. We demand that the Central Bank of Venezuela provide details about what is happening. This gold does not belong to [Venezuela Central Bank director] Calixto Ortega, but to the Venezuelan people."
Below is the Novaya Gazeta report:
"Golden Flight": Screenshot from Flightradar24.com's flight history for the Russian Boeing 757, showing its flight from Moscow on January 29, 2019 through Dubai, Casablanca, and Espargos in Cape Verde to Caracas on January 30, 2019. (Source: Novayagazeta.ru)
"A Boeing Cargo Plane From Russia... Flew To Venezuela – And All Of A Sudden Lots Of Money Showed Up In Maduro's" Hands
"A Boeing cargo plane from Russia transiting through Dubai and Morocco flew to Venezuela and all of a sudden lots of money showed up in Maduro's [hands].
"At noon on January 30, a loaded Boeing 757 plane made a landing at Caracas airport which had flown out of Moscow at 4:50 AM on Monday January 29.
"From Vnukovo Airport, it headed to the UAE and landed in Dubai. From there it left for Venezuela, making stopovers in Casablanca, Morocco and Espargos, Cape Verde, in West Africa.
"OVER THE PAST DECADE THIS IS THE SECOND FLIGHT OF A BOEING 757 CARGO PLANE TO CARACAS.
"On January 18-19, a plane flew a route Moscow-Dubai-Agadir (Morocco)- Caracas route. On January 21-23, it returned to Moscow, via Agadir and Dubai.
"Our sources in Dubai confirm that at the airport [there], the Russian plane was met by armored cars of the UAE Central Bank.
"GOLD WAS UNLOADED FROM THE PLANE, AND CONTAINERS WITH DOLLAR BILLS WERE LOADED.
"Novaya Gazeta managed to figure out that up to January 2019. about 30 tons of gold belonging to Venezuela were stored at the Central Bank of Russia.
"It is well known that until 2011 a large part of Venezuela's gold reserve was stored in the banks of Europe and the U.S. If the country's entire gold reserve was estimated at 365.7 tons, 233 tons of gold were stored outside of Venezuela.
"In August 2011, then-Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced his decision to return the country's gold reserve to Venezuela.
"BY NOVEMBER 2012, 57 TONS OF VENEZUELAN GOLD REMAINED ABROAD, A LARGE PART OF IT DEPOSITED IN TRUST AT THE CENTRAL BANK OF RUSSIA.
"THIS IS LIKELY THE VENEZUELAN GOLD THAT WAS LOADED ON THE BOEING 757 AT MOSCOW'S VNUKOVO AIRPORT ON JANUARY 18 AND 28.
"It was delivered to Dubai, where it was sold and converted into cash.
"The market value of 30 tons of gold is approximately $1.2 billion. Coincidentally, Nicolas Maduro announced yesterday that he was allocating €1 billion to a beautification program for Venezuela that would transform it into a Latin American tourist mecca.
"Let us note that the fulfillment of this extremely delicate transfer was entrusted to the Yerofei air company, registered in Khabarovsk, and 100% owned by one person. In January alone, the Boeing 757 cargo plane that has twice flown to Caracas via Dubai is the Khabarovsk airline Yerofei's single plane."