By Jon Dougherty, editor-in-chief

With the situation in Venezuela spiraling further out of control, some 20 tons of gold worth more than $840 million was being readied to be shipped out of the country on a Russian Boeing 777 that landed in the capital of Caracas a day earlier, according to a Venezuelan lawmaker.

It wasn’t clear where the stash of gold bars, which represent about 20 percent of the country’s holdings of the precious metal, a source told Bloomberg News. However, the gold has been set aside for shipment, the report noted.

The destination of the $840 million in gold bars was unknown, but a source told Bloomberg News that it represented about 20 percent of the country’s holding of the metal. The gold was set aside for loading, the report said.

The claim was made by Venezuelan lawmkaer Jose Guerra on Twitter, which set off lots of social media speculation as well as outrage among the citizenry.

Bloomberg reported that Guerra provided no evidence when asked about his claim. But he is a former central bank economist who is still in contact with his former colleagues. Also, one person with direct knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News Tuesday that 20 tons of gold had been earmarked for loading. That source had no further information on where it could be heading.

Deal: FREE Wine Accessory with Every Gift Membership!This is the Russian plane that arrived last night. He is in the auxiliary of Maiquetia, belongs to Nordwind Airlines and came directly from Moscow only with the crew.”

Simon Zerpa, Venezuela’s finance minister, did not comment about the gold when reached by Bloomberg News. He further denied there was a Russian plane at the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas.

“I’m going to start bringing Russian and Turkish airplanes every week so everybody gets scared,” he joked.

Another observer had this to say about the flight. “Interesting flight. A Boeing 777 of Russian Nordwind Airlines is on its way to Caracas. No pax, but two crews on board. Nordwind does not operate to Venezuela. So this is a special flight. Two crews might indicate aircraft will depart soon after arrival. Aircraft has 277 seats.”

Speculation continued to run rampant into Wednesday. Some believe the plane may have been sent by Russian President Vladimir Putin to evacuate Maduro, his family, and senior staff, along with a ‘payment’ for services.

Another rumor holds that the plane carried hundreds of Russian mercenaries into Venezuela. Reports earlier this week claimed that Russian mercs had been flown in to protect Maduro and his government. The Jamestown Foundation, a think tank, said that other reports indicated Russian mercs have have been in Venezuela since last spring.

Caracas is heavily in debt to Moscow, which remains one of the country’s staunchest allies. Russia and China, another benefactor to Caracas, warned the U.S. and other countries last week not to intervene in Venezuela.

On Tuesday, National Security Adviser John Bolton was pictured holding a yellow legal pad with notes that indicating the Trump administration may be preparing to send 5,000 troops to neighboring Colombia, perhaps to stage them ahead of an incursion into Venezuela.

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