After a six-year legal battle, Venezuela strongman Hugo Chavez finally struck out in federal court this week and must honor an $8 billion bond debt his government ran up — or face seizure of his 14,000 nationally owned Citgo gas stations in the US.
The flap began when Chavez was sued in 2005 by a group of Ohio investors who claimed he and his government refused to make payment on quarter-century-old bonds, despite certification and guarantees by Venezuela’s oil-rich Treasury.
The Chavez administration started a dirty-tricks stonewalling campaign to cheat investors, a federal lawsuit charged at the time. After two years of litigation, Federal Judge John Holschuh agreed with the investors and ordered Venezuela to make good on the $6 billion in bonds — plus interest.
Instead of paying, Chavez mounted a counter-attack and, working his way through at least five law firms, spent $40 million and tied up the courts for four more years in a bitter — and ultimately unsuccessful — appeals fight.