The Daily Telegraph

Maduro can use Bank of Eng­land gold, Court of Ap­peal rules

- By Har­riet Alexan­der and Lucy Bur­ton White-collar Crime · Latin America News · Politics · Infectious Diseases · Crime · Health Conditions · Nicolás Maduro · Bank of England · England · Venezuela · United Kingdom · Government of the United Kingdom · Juan Guaidó · Jeremy Hunt · London · United Nations · Commonwealth of Nations · Commonwealth of England · Latin America Politics · National Assembly of Venezuela

NI­CO­LAS MADURO, Venezuela’s dis­puted pres­i­dent, is poised to ac­cess a con­tested £800 mil­lion of gold bul­lion in Bank of Eng­land vaults af­ter a land­mark rul­ing from the Court of Ap­peal over who ef­fec­tively leads the coun­try.

The money – which Mr Maduro says he will use to tackle the coro­n­avirus pan­demic – has been blocked since the UK Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cially recog­nised Juan Guaido, head of the Na­tional Assem­bly, as the le­git­i­mate ruler of Venezuela in Fe­bru­ary 2019.

Amid Venezuela’s col­laps­ing econ­omy, Mr Maduro at­tempted to with­draw the gold, but was blocked by the Bank of Eng­land.

In July, the High Court ruled that the Gov­ern­ment has “un­equiv­o­cally recog­nised” Mr Guaido as in­terim pres­i­dent of Venezuela, and that he there­fore has the authority to give in­struc­tions in re­la­tion to the gold. Yes­ter­day, that de­ci­sion was ques­tioned by the Court of Ap­peal, which found that a Fe­bru­ary 2019 state­ment by Jeremy Hunt, the then for­eign sec­re­tary, was “am­bigu­ous, or less than un­equiv­o­cal”.

In his judg­ment, Lord Justice Males, sit­ting with Lords Justice Lewi­son and Phillips, said Mr Hunt’s state­ment “might have said in terms that Her Majesty’s Gov­ern­ment did not recog­nise Mr Maduro in any ca­pac­ity, but it did not”. The judge said the case should be re­con­sid­ered by the High Court to de­ter­mine whether the Gov­ern­ment “recog­nises Mr Guaido as pres­i­dent of Venezuela for all pur­poses and there­fore does not recog­nise Mr Maduro as pres­i­dent for any pur­pose”.

Mr Maduro’s lawyers in London have ar­gued that the Banco Cen­tral de Venezuela, which owns the gold, should be al­lowed – on his or­der – to sell the gold. They have reached a deal with the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme to trans­fer the £800 mil­lion to them, so that the funds can be used to com­bat coro­n­avirus in the coun­try. But the Bank of Eng­land says it is “caught in the mid­dle” of ri­val claims to the gold, from the BCV board and an “ad hoc” board ap­pointed by Mr Guaido.

Nei­ther leader has re­sponded to the Court’s de­ci­sion, and the For­eign, Com­mon­wealth and De­vel­op­ment Of­fice has not re­sponded to The Tele­graph’s re­quest for com­ment. A Bank of Eng­land spokesman de­clined to com­ment.

Sarosh Zai­walla, a lawyer for BCV, said the July rul­ing had “led to a sit­u­a­tion” in which the ad­min­is­tra­tion which is in “full con­trol of the BCV’S oper­a­tions, were be­ing told that they could no longer deal with very sub­stan­tial cen­tral bank de­posits in London”.

The Bank of Eng­land is among the largest keep­ers of gold in the world. Most of it is stored se­curely on be­half of the Gov­ern­ment and banks.

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