President Nicolas Maduro’s administration cannot use $1bn (£799m) of gold bullion held by Venezuela in the vaults of the Bank of England. Urgently needed fight the pandemic for food and medicines via the UN.
Chris Williamson MP spoke about this at a demonstration outside the Bank of England 18 months ago. “Proof positive that the law is an ass ” after High Court judge rejects Venezuela’s efforts to get its gold back .
It ‘unequivocally recognised’ rival Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s President. “This brings Britain’s reputation into further disrepute.” said Williamson.
The Venezuelan central bank (BCV) – whose board is appointed by Maduro, the successor to Hugo Chávez – took the legal action after its request to release the gold was rejected the first time.
It had argued in practice this recognition – made after Guaidó declared himself interim president – amounted to nothing since ministers had not withdrawn the diplomatic credentials of the diplomats in London linked to the Maduro government. The UK also had a serving ambassador in Caracas.
Mr Justice Teare, a commercial court judge sitting in the high court, ruled on Thursday the Maduro-supporting bank was not entitled to make the request. “Her Majesty’s government does recognise Guaidó in the capacity of the constitutional interim president of Venezuela and, it must follow, does not recognise Maduro as the constitutional interim president of Venezuela,” he said.
Sarosh Zaiwalla, senior partner at Zaiwalla & Co, representing the Banco Central de Venezuela, said his clients would appeal and challenged the court judgement for “entirely ignoring the reality of the situation on the ground”.
He said the ruling would delay money being sent to help the people of Venezuela. “Maduro’s government is in complete control of Venezuela and its administrative institutions, and only it ….can combat the coronavirus pandemic.” He added that none of the members of a rival, Guaidó-appointed BcV board that sought to keep the gold in the UK, have “been resident in Venezuela for some years now”.
In a long-running political battle for the soul of the country, Guaidó declared himself interim president pending fresh elections in January 2019, two weeks after Maduro’s swearing in following a disputed 2018 vote. The then UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said a month later that the UK recognised Guaidó as “the constitutional interim president of Venezuela until credible presidential elections can be held”. About 60 countries, including the US, which has sanctioned Maduro and his inner circle, have recognised Guaidó.
At the unusual four-day preliminary hearing in June, Nicholas Vineall QC – representing the “Maduro board” of the BCV said that if the UK recognised Guaidó as head of state this would be “an impermissible intervention in the affairs of Venezuela” and also “unlawful under international law…it was rare for a commercial court to be told that it could only decide a question in the way the government said it must.”
The Venezuelan foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, recently summoned the UK chargé d’affaires Duncan Hill. to “present him with a formal protest ” , Saying the UK government must “abandon Washington’s coup-mongering plans ” in Venezuela.
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