UK refuses to return Venezuelan gold at start of Supreme Court hearing
The battle for control of Venezuela’s gold reserves in the Bank of England (BOE) has reached the final stage where the Supreme Court will get to decide if the British government’s recognition of Venezuela’s self-styled opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, justifies freezing the reserves indefinitely.
In a previous round of legal hearings in October 2020 an appeal court had swayed the odds in favor of the Venezuelan government by judging an earlier ruling to have been riddled with ambiguities.
The Venezuelan government had appealed the previous month after a High Court ruling in July 2020 that the UK has “unequivocally recognized” the self-appointed opposition leader Guaidó as the “interim president”.
Cash-strapped Venezuela – which is subject to punishing US and UK sanctions - launched legal action against the BOE in order to secure the release of $1 billion worth of Venezuelan gold.
Throughout various stages of legal proceedings representatives of the Venezuelan central bank have consistently argued that the UK’s position willfully and cynically ignores the reality on the ground in Venezuela where British diplomats maintain day-to-day contacts with the legitimate government of the country led by President Nicolás Maduro.
Furthermore, Venezuela’s central bank argues it needs immediate access to the bullion to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the South American country in partnership with the United Nations Development Fund.
However, the UK continues to maintain its stubborn position of holding onto the gold reserves on the dubious argument that President Maduro is not the legitimate ruler of the country.
To that end, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO – formerly known as the FCO), issued a statement on Monday (July 19), claiming that it continues to recognize Guaidó as the “only legitimate President of Venezuela”.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Vineall QC, who represents the Venezuelan central bank, told the Supreme Court earlier today that this entire case revolves around “sovereignty and power in Venezuela”.