Washington-based federal judge Carl J. Nichols has given U.S.-based ConocoPhillips Co. approval to enforce an $8.5 billion arbitral award against Venezuela related to assets expropriated in 2007, a law website revealed.

The judge “ruled that Caracas’ chances of success in an ongoing annulment proceeding are minimal,” and added that Venezuela had no good reason to ignore the litigation for more than two years, according to a report published by Law360 on Aug. 19.

Venezuela, which continues to struggle under the weight of U.S. financial and oil sector sanctions, could suffer undue hardship if the award is enforced “and it is ultimately annulled,” the judge admitted but added that “he did not see that situation as being particularly likely,” the Law360 report said.

Nichols also said: “Any hardship to Venezuela also would have to be balanced against petitioners’ hardship in waiting even longer to begin collecting. Fifteen years is long enough.”

ConocoPhillips and Canadian-based mining company Crystallex International Corp. have lined up to collect on monies long owed to them by the cash-strapped Venezuelan government. The companies and creditors continue to eye Venezuela’s most prized international asset, U.S. refiner Citgo, which Washington continues to shield from a liquidation proceeding as well as from the government of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.