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CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela is seeking to repatriate about $550 million in gold bars from the Bank of England because of fears it could be caught up in international sanctions on the country, two sources with direct knowledge of the effort told Reuters.

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FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro touches a gold bar as he speaks during a meeting with the ministers responsible for the economic sector at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela March 22, 2018. To match Exclusive VENEZUELA-GOLD/ REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo

Venezuela’s hard currency holdings have dwindled as existing U.S. financial sanctions have effectively blocked President Nicolas Maduro’s government from borrowing on international markets.

The Trump administration on Thursday issued a new round of sanctions banning U.S. citizens from having dealings with anyone involved in “corrupt or deceptive” gold sales from Venezuela, as part of efforts to boost pressure on Maduro.

Maduro’s government is seeking to bring 14 tonnes of gold held in the Bank of England back to Venezuela, according to two public officials with direct knowledge of the operation, who asked not to be identified.

The Bank of England has sought to clarify what Venezuela wants to do with the gold, one of the officials said.

Venezuela’s central bank did not respond to a request for comment. The Bank of England declined to comment.

The plan has been held up for nearly two months due to difficulty in obtaining insurance for the shipment, needed to move a large gold cargo, one of the officials said.

“They are still trying to find insurance coverage, because the costs are high,” the official said.

Venezuela is in its fifth year of...

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