Venezuela’s cash-strapped government sent gold to Mali last year in Russian-owned planes to exchange it for foreign currency, Reuters news agency is quoting prominent Venezuelan opposition politician Julio Borges as saying.
The gold was refined in Mali – one of Africa’s largest gold producers – and then resold in the United Arab Emirates, Mr Borges, who lives in exile in neighbouring Colombia, reportedly said.
He alleged this was part of a scheme that allowed Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s administration to stay afloat despite US sanctions.
There has been no immediate comment from the authorities in either Mali or Venezuela.
For the last few years, Venezuela’s government has been selling off some of its gold reserves to allies in Turkey, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
Mr Maduro was re-elected for a second six-year term in May 2018 in highly controversial elections, which most opposition parties boycotted and at a time of a deep economic crisis.
The opposition argued that as Mr Maduro had not been elected fairly, the presidency was vacant and opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president.
He was recognised as Venezuela’s legitimate leader by more than 50 countries, including the US, the UK, the EU parliament and most Latin American nations.
But Mr Maduro has remained in control of the security forces and also retains the support of Russia and China, two powerful allies.