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The two boards of Venezuela-owned refiner Citgo are fighting over the ownership of $57 million worth of crude oil stranded at sea, Reuters reports, adding the amount of oil in question is 950,000 barrels.
According to the report, the first Citgo board, which was appointed by—and is loyal to—the Maduro government in Caracas, had written to the captain of the tanker with the crude to ask that its load be released to Citgo’s parent company, PDVSA.
The information, apparently, reached the rival board, appointed in the United States by Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, and the board filed a request with a U.S. court to declare the first board’s request null. The request argued the oil belonged to Citgo and not PDVSA.
Data from Refinitiv Eikon shows that the tanker, Gerd Knutsen, loaded the crude at the Venezuelan port of Jose early this year and was en-route to the United States to deliver it to Citgo when U.S. sanctions targeting Venezuela’s oil industry snapped into place, leaving more than a dozen tankers stranded, Reuters recalls.
Citgo got a second board in February, when Guaido rode the wave of national protests against the Maduro government, at the same time counting on strong support from the U.S. The protests, however, couldn’t topple the government. Still, Guaido announced a new board for Citgo with Washington’s blessing, effectively taking control of the company, which, unlike its parent, is a U.S.-incorporated entity.
The refiner has become the focus of attention for at least two companies that have sued and won against Venezuela for the nationalization of their assets by Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez. ConocoPhillips and Crystallex both demand the compensation they were awarded by courts and are looking at Citgo assets as the means to get it.
Last month, however, the U.S. Treasury poured a cold shower over their hopes, declaring no one could touch Citgo assets without a special license.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.