By Marc Jones LONDON (Reuters) -Britain’s High Court rejected Nicolas Maduro’s latest efforts on Friday to gain control of more than $1 billion of Venezuela’s gold reserves stored in the Bank of England’s underground vaults in London. The court ruled that recent decisions by the Maduro-backed Venezuelan Supreme Court aimed at reducing opposition leader Juan […]
Britain’s High Court rules against Venezuela’s Maduro in latest gold battle
By Marc Jones
LONDON (Reuters) -Britain’s High Court rejected Nicolas Maduro’s latest efforts on Friday to gain control of more than $1 billion of Venezuela’s gold reserves stored in the Bank of England’s underground vaults in London.
The court ruled that recent decisions by the Maduro-backed Venezuelan Supreme Court aimed at reducing opposition leader Juan Guaido’s say over the gold, should be disregarded.
It marked the latest victory for Guaido, who has won a series of legal clashes over the gold after the British government recognised him rather than Maduro as the Latin American country’s president.
“I have … concluded that the Guaido Board succeeds: that the STJ (Venezuelan supreme court) judgements are not capable of being recognised,” the judge in the case said.
The Maduro and Guaido camps have each appointed a different board to the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) and the two have issued conflicting instructions concerning the gold reserves.
Lawyers for the Maduro-backed BCV board said the central bank was considering an appeal after Friday’s ruling.
Maduro’s legal team has said he would like to sell some of the 31 tonnes of gold to finance Venezuela’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and bolster a health system gutted by years of economic crisis.
Guaido’s opposition has alleged that Maduro’s cash-strapped administration wants to use the money to pay off his foreign allies, which his lawyers deny.
The British government in early 2019 joined dozens of nations in backing Guaido, after he declared an interim presidency and denounced Maduro for rigging 2018 elections.
Guaido at that time asked the Bank of England to prevent Maduro’s government from accessing the gold. Maduro’s central bank then sued the Bank of England to recover control, saying it was depriving the BCV of funds needed to finance Venezuela’s coronavirus response.
Legal experts have said the latest case has been unprecedented as it has seen one country’s highest court interpreting the constitution of another.
“This is an unfortunate ruling,” said Sarosh Zaiwalla at Zaiwalla & Co, which represented the Maduro-backed central bank, adding that it would continue to pursue the case despite Friday’s decision.
“The BCV remains concerned that the cumulative effect of the judgments of the English Court appears to accord a simple statement by the UK Government recognising as a head of state a person with no effective control or power over any part of that state,” Zaiwalla added.
Law firm Arnold & Porter, which represented the Guaido side in the case, did not comment.
(Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Michael Holden and Catherine Evans)