Approximately US$1 billion held in the Bank of England for Venezuela has become the subject of a court case as the country’s political leaders each make a case for it.
In a case to be heard by the UK’s High Court, Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) is taking legal action to release the gold bullion held on its behalf, English newspapers report.
BCV wants to sell the gold in order to deal with the country’s coronavirus crisis.
BCV says in its application before the courts that it intends to transfer the funds to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to buy “healthcare equipment, medicines and basic foodstuffs” to address the COVID-19 emergency in Venezuela, reported the Shropshire Star.
Contesting BVC’s claim is Venezuela’s Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has asked the Bank of England (BoE) not to “act on instructions from the Maduro board”.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro became president of Venezuela following the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013 and was sworn in for a second term last year amid claims of vote-rigging in 2018’s election, which was boycotted by opposition parties.
In February 2019, then Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that the Government recognised Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as “the constitutional interim president of Venezuela until credible presidential elections can be held”.
Guaido and his lawyers say he is therefore “entitled to assert Venezuela’s claim to the gold” held by the BoE.
Maduro’s lawyer said the BCV had negotiated with the UNDP “to ensure all funds raised by the sale of Venezuelan gold will be used in the fight against COVID-19”, but that the BoE’s “continued intransigence is putting lives at risk”, the Star reported
He added that the money is now needed to save lives and will not be used by the Maduro regime and will instead go directly to aid efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
A four-day hearing is to be held by the court to settle the matter this week.