A tug-of-war over $1 billion worth of Venezuelan gold stored at the Bank of England took a new turn on Monday as the English Court of Appeal overturned an earlier High Court ruling on which the UK recognized as Venezuela’s president.
The Court of Appeal granted the Nicolas Maduro-backed Banco Central de Venezuela’s (BCV) appeal and set aside July’s High Court judgment, which had found that Britain’s recognition of opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as constitutional interim president of Venezuela was conclusive.
The BCV sued the Bank of England in May to recover control of the gold, which it says it will sell to finance Venezuela’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bank of England has refused to release the gold, however, after the British government in early 2019 joined dozens of nations in backing Guaido on the basis that Maduro’s election win the previous year had been rigged.
Monday’s decision means the case now goes back to the High Court for it to determine more definitively which of the two rival leaders is in charge.
Venezuela’s opposition has alleged that Maduro wants to use the money to pay off his foreign allies, which his lawyers deny.
Over the past two years, Maduro’s government has taken some 30 tonnes from its local gold reserves to sell abroad for much-needed hard currency, according to people familiar with the operations and the bank’s own data.