Venezuela’s state-owned PDVSA is arguing in US court that the latest sanctions imposed by the Trump administration should block any attempts by Venezuela’s creditors to use the US justice system to auction off its Citgo assets.  PDVSA argued the US sanctions “preclude any use of the shares — commercial or otherwise,” and that courts have held that a “foreign state’s assets that are frozen at the time of the attachment order are not being used for a commercial activity and are therefore immune from attachment,” according to a court document filed Wednesday in the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.

The company made the argument in an appeal to a US district judge’s ruling in August that Canadian miner Crystallex could auction off PDV Holding’s shares in its US refining unit Citgo to collect on a $1.2 billion judgment related to Venezuela nationalizing its gold mine.  The case was seen at the time as a first step in PDVSA possibly losing control of Citgo, its most valued asset.  The US has effectively banned both Venezuelan crude exports to the US and US diluent exports to Venezuela through sanctions announced January 28 against PDVSA.  S&P Global Platts estimates Venezuela produced 1.16 million b/d of oil in January.