Nearly a billion pounds’ worth of Venezuela’s gold being held by the Bank of England will be the subject of a landmark legal case over who the UK government recognises as the country’s leader.
Ownership of the horde will be decided at the Court of Appeal in a case brought by Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV), the Socialist-run country’s central bank.
BCV’s board, which was appointed by Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, launched legal action earlier this year in an effort to release the gold held on its behalf.
Image: Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro
The hearing starting on Tuesday will see it challenging a High Court ruling in July that the UK government has “unequivocally recognised” opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president.
The bank has pledged to sell the bullion to buy “healthcare equipment, medicines and basic foodstuffs” from the United Nations Development programme (UNDP) to help tackle the South American nation’s coronavirus outbreak, it says.
BCV board solicitor Sarosh Zaiwalla said in a statement: “This case raises a number of issues of public international law, which forbids the interference by any country in the internal affairs of another sovereign nation.
“The outcome in this case could present a further threat to the international perception of English institutions as being free from political interference, as well as the Bank of England’s reputation abroad as a safe repository for sovereign assets.
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“Mr Maduro’s government remains in sole, undisputed control of Venezuela’s instruments of state and health system.”
The Bank of England said it is “caught in the middle” of rival claims to the gold, from the BCV board appointed by Mr Maduro and an “ad hoc” board appointed by Mr Guaido.
Image: Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido
At a three-day hearing, lawyers representing the “Maduro board” of the BCV will attempt to overturn the High Court’s ruling.
Mr Maduro, who became president of Venezuela in 2013, was sworn in for a second term last year amid claims of vote-rigging in the 2018 election, which was boycotted by opposition parties.
Mr Guaido declared himself acting president in January 2019 and, a month later, then foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK recognised Mr Guaido as “the constitutional interim president of Venezuela until credible presidential elections can be held”.
Lawyers representing the “Guaido board” of the BCV argued the UK government “has decided to recognise Juan Guaido as the constitutional interim president of Venezuela and has denounced the ‘illegitimate, kleptocratic Maduro regime’.”
Source : Sky News