UK court must decide which leader to recognise in Venezuela gold case
A court in London has said that it will need to decide which of Venezuela’s duelling political factions to recognise before ruling on president Nicolas Maduro’s request for the Bank of England to hand over gold the country has in its vaults.
For decades, Venezuela has stored gold that makes up part of its central bank reserves in the vaults of foreign financial institutions including the Bank of England, which provides gold custodian services to developing countries. But since 2018, the bank has refused to transfer the funds to Maduro’s government, which Britain does not recognise.
Earlier this month, Venezuela’s central bank made a legal claim to try to force the bank to release 930 million euros ($1.03 billion) in gold to fund Venezuela’s coronavirus response. The government says it has a deal with the UN Development Programme to administer the funds.
But according to statements from both parties, the court said it would begin hearings no earlier than 22 June to determine which party could represent Venezuela in the case: Maduro or Juan Guaidó, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
Dozens of countries, including Britain, recognise Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president, arguing Maduro rigged his 2018 re-election. Guaidó has appointed a parallel central bank board of directors.
Maduro, who retains the support of Venezuela’s armed forces and allies Russia and China, calls Guaidó a US puppet seeking to oust him in a coup. Lawyers at Zaiwalla and Co, which represent the central bank of Maduro’s government in the case, called the result “a fair and good outcome”.
Guaidó’s chief overseas legal representative confirmed the contents of the ruling and said “the Maduro regime’s true aim is to use central bank resources outside of parliamentary controls.”
The Bank of England declined to comment.