CARACAS, March 27 A U.S. court has upheld an
award by a World Bank Tribunal that orders Venezuela to pay more
than $1 billion to Canadian mining company Crystallex, paving
the way for the firm to seize assets for the 2008 expropriation
of the Las Cristinas gold project.
The tribunal known as the International Centre for
Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) last year ordered
Venezuela to pay Crystallex $1.2 billion plus accrued interest,
which adds an additional $200 million for a total of $1.4
The ICSID is often used by global companies seeking
compensation from governments that have nationalized their
The U.S. district court for the District of Columbia on
Saturday upheld the Crystallex award and dismissed Venezuela's
request to have the award vacated.
Venezuela's information ministry did not respond to an email
Companies seeking to collect on such awards first need to
obtain rulings from courts in the countries where it wants to
seize assets. Venezuelan assets in the United States include
refineries owned by Citgo, a subsidiary of state oil company
Crystallex in November sued Citgo on the grounds that its
2016 debt swap, which used Citgo shares as collateral, could
prevent it from collecting on its arbitration awards.
Las Cristinas in Venezuela was Crystallex's flagship project
and at the time was regarded as one of the world's biggest
undeveloped gold deposits with estimated gold reserves of 12.5
million ounces. But development was delayed for years by legal
disputes and permitting hold-ups.
Venezuela, which is struggling under triple-digit inflation
and a severe recession, is immersed in nearly 20 arbitration
disputes with foreign companies resulting mainly from a wave of
state takeovers by late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
It has reached negotiated settlements to some of the
disputes, but companies that have won ICSID awards have not been
able to collect on them due to frequent appeals and the
complexity of attaching Venezuelan assets.
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Bernard Orr)