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Venezuela Starts Paying After Settling $1.2B Arbitration Award for Seized Gold Mining Rights

The Venezuelan government has paid $500 million of the $1.2 billion it owes to Canadian mining company Crystallex International Inc. under a settlement following an arbitration award over lost mineral rights, according to court papers.

Crystallex said in a court filing  that Venezuela completed an up-front payment of $425 million Nov. 23 on top of $75 million paid earlier, and plans to satisfy the rest of judgment by Jan. 10.

On Monday, U.S. District Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark of the District of Delaware granted a request from both sides to temporarily stay the case to allow Venezuela to meet its remaining obligations. Under Stark's order, the parties must report their progress by Jan. 24.

Crystallex and Venezuela agreed to a settlement in September about a month after Stark entered a writ of attachment for shares of Petróleos de Venezuela S.A., Venezuela’s national oil company, which owns Citgo Petroleum Corp. in the United States. In his August ruling, Stark found PDVSA acted as an “alter ego” of the Venezuelan government, which exerted extensive control over the company’s business operations.

The terms of the agreement remain confidential, but Crystallex said the agreement followed an earlier settlement that was abandoned last year.

"The requested temporary stay is intended to provide time for the parties to finalize and

memorialize the full terms for the payment of the remaining funds owed to Crystallex. The

temporary stay is also intended to provide time for Venezuela to meet certain additional

conditions relating to security for those remaining funds — including the provision of security

acceptable to Crystallex," an attorney for Crystallex told Stark on Nov. 26.

If those conditions are not met by Jan. 10, enforcement proceedings would pick up again in Delaware.

"We believe it is in the best interests of all parties to pause enforcement proceedings so as to

allow Venezuela the opportunity to try to fully implement the parties’ agreement," Crystallex said.

Crystallex filed a motion for a writ of attachment in August 2017 after Venezuela failed to pay a $1.2 billion arbitration award for improperly terminating the Canadian company’s rights to an untapped gold reserve amid a push to nationalize its gold mines.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia confirmed the arbitration award in 2017. However, Crystallex’s previous attempt to recover against PDVSA under the Delaware Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act fell flat after an appeals court tossed the case in January.

Crystallex argued in the attachment case that Venezuela used its shares in PDV Holding Inc., a Delaware company, for commercial activity in the United States by exerting its rights as a shareholder to conduct business through a subsidiary, Citgo Petroleum Corp.

PDVSA intervened in the dispute and argued Venezuela’s control of PDVSA and its assets constituted ordinary government regulations. According to PDVSA, shares in the U.S. subsidiary were “effectively frozen” and couldn’t be used for commercial activity.

Stark, however, sided with Crystallex, citing evidence that Venezuela was deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of PDVSA, which appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Crystallex is represented by Robert L. Weigel, Jason W. Myatt, Rahim Moloo and Miguel A. Estrada of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher‘s New York and Washington offices. Raymond J. DiCamillo, Jeffrey L. Moyer and Travis S. Hunter of Richards, Layton & Finger are acting as local counsel.

PDVSA is represented by Joseph D. Pizzurro, Kevin A. Meehan, Julia B. Mosse and Juan Perla of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle in New York and Samuel T. Hirzel II of Heyman Enerio Gattuso & Hirzel in Wilmington, Delaware.

The case is captioned Crystallex International v. Venezuela.