In a dispute over who is entitled to almost USD $2 billion in gold warehoused at the Bank of England, the English Court of Appeal on Monday overturned an earlier High Court ruling on whom the UK officially recognizes as Venezuela’s president.
The decision is the latest in a multi-year dispute as to who is the president of the South American country—Nicholás Maduro or Juan Guaidó. Following the 2018 election, Maduro claimed to be the president while Guaidó claimed to be the interim president on the ground that the election was rigged. The competing claimants both assert they are, as “head of government … entitled to give instructions to [UK] financial institutions on behalf of the Central Bank of Venezuela.”
In May the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) sued the Bank of England to regain control over the gold to assist the country with COVID-19-related expenses. The Bank of England refused to release the gold after the British government joined several other nations in backing Guaidó on the basis that Maduro’s 2018 election win was “deeply flawed … due to exceptional circumstances: 3.6 million people had fled the country and the regime was ‘holding onto power through electoral malpractice and hard repression of dissent.'”
The UK has recognized Guaidó as the Venezuelan president since February 2019. In July 2020 the English High Court held that Guaidó’s appointment was an executive act of the state of Venezuela, “which the English court would recognize and not question.”
Monday’s decision, however, granted the Maduro-backed BCV appeal, sending the case back to the High Court to determine a “more definitive answer” to whether:
(1) [the UK] recognizes Mr. Guaidó as President of Venezuela for all purposes and therefore does not recognize Mr. Maduro as President for any purpose; or
(2) [the UK] recognizes Mr. Guaidó as entitled to be the President of Venezuela and thus entitled to exercise all the powers of the President but also recognizes Mr. Maduro as the person who does in fact exercise some to all of the powers of the President of Venezuela.
In addition to the Bank of England’s gold reserves, the Deutsche Bank “is obligated to pay the proceeds of a gold swap contract to the BCV in the sum of about US $120 million.”