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Venezuela Receives Last Shipment of Repatriated Gold Bars

Venezuela today received the last shipment of gold bars in an operation that repatriated 160 tons of the South American country’s reserves of the metal held abroad, said Nelson Merentes, president of the country’s central bank.

Fourteen tons of gold arrived at the Caracas airport today on a flight from Europe, Merentes said. The gold bars were transported in a caravan, broadcast on state television, to vaults at the central bank where street banners proclaimed “Mission Complete.”

“In two months, we’ve brought 160 tons of gold valued at around $9 billion back to Venezuela,” Merentes said on state television from the Caracas airport. “Today marks the last day of the mission.”

President Hugo Chavez in August ordered the central bank to repatriate the country’s gold reserves as a safeguard against instability in financial markets. The South American country, which has the 15th-largest holdings in the world, according to the World Gold Council, held 211 tons of its 365 tons of gold reserves in U.S., European and Canadian banks as of August.

Venezuela will leave about 15 percent of its reserves, or around 50 tons, outside of Venezuela for financial transactions, Merentes said today. He said on Jan. 3 that the country would leave 15 tons of gold in banks outside the country.

A central bank report released in August showed that Venezuela held gold reserves with the Bank of England, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays Plc and Standard Chartered Plc among other banks.

“This was the largest type of operation to transport this type of metal in the last fifteen years,” said Merentes. “The repatriation of our gold was an act of financial prudence and sovereignty.”

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