June 17, 2019 / 8:15 PM / 4 months ago

Jamaica says it already owns refinery shares formerly held by PDVSA

CARACAS, June 17 (Reuters) - Jamaica’s government said on Monday it already owns the 49% stake in a refinery on the island formerly held by Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, after the South American country’s opposition requested it not expropriate the shares.

Jamaica’s Senate in February passed legislation clearing the way for the government to acquire the 49% stake in the 36,000 barrel-per-day Petrojam refinery <C}RO7309413950> that PDVSA acquired in 2006, part of late leftist President Hugo Chavez’s energy diplomacy efforts in the Caribbean.

But over the weekend, an ad-hoc PDVSA board appointed by opposition leader Juan Guaido sent Jamaica a letter asking that it halt the expropriation process. The other 51% of the shares were already owned by the Jamaican government.

Robert Nesta Morgan, parliamentary secretary for the office of Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, said on Monday that the office received the letter and sent it to the attorney general’s office for “advice.”

“The shares however are now owned by Jamaica,” Morgan said in a statement, adding that the Jamaican government placed funds for compensation for the shares an escrow account, and there was a provision for parties to submit claims for the funds. He did not say how much money was placed in the account.

Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, in January invoked Venezuela’s constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing President Nicolas Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has since been recognized by dozens of countries as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

He appointed the ad-hoc board in part to protect PDVSA’s assets abroad. Maduro calls Guaido a puppet of the United States seeking to oust him in a coup, and remains in control of most state functions, including PDVSA’s operations within Venezuela.

Jose Ignacio Hernandez, Guaido’s overseas legal representative, said he and PDVSA ad-hoc board chair Luis Pacheco had “already requested that any compensation should be negotiated with the legitimate government.” (Reporting by Luc Cohen Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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