June 18 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s opposition late on Wednesday asked a U.S. court to delay Canadian miner Crystallex’ plan to seize and sell shares in U.S. oil refiner Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela.
Crystallex is seeking to collect on a $1.4 billion judgment for expropriation of its assets under late socialist leader Hugo Chavez. Venezuela’s opposition, which took control of Citgo last year after Washington sanctioned PDVSA, sought to have a ruling in Crystallex’ favor thrown out, but the U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to hear the case.
Now, representatives for opposition leader Juan Guaido - recognized by the United States and dozens of other countries as Venezuela’s rightful leader - have asked a federal court in Delaware to delay any sale until Crystallex is granted an explicit license from U.S. sanctions.
The U.S. Treasury Department in 2019 made clear that a specific license is needed to enforce a judgment ordering the sale of Venezuelan property on U.S. soil.
The opposition argued that a ruling authorizing a sale ahead of the granting of such a license could benefit socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who has overseen an economic collapse in the once-prosperous OPEC nation and stands accused of corruption and human rights violations.
“Any steps taken at this time toward a forced sale ... would hand the Maduro regime an opportunity (however misleadingly) to question the sincerity of the United States’ support for the Interim Government,” lawyers for Guaido wrote in the filing.
Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a Wednesday filing, Crystallex said a Citgo attachment was necessary because “Venezuela refuses to honor its debts voluntarily.” (Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)