Home World £1.4BN Venezuela gold haul: UK to decide fate of 32-tonne stash of...

£1.4BN Venezuela gold haul: UK to decide fate of 32-tonne stash of precious metal

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The Supreme Court handled the dispute between Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó, both of whom claim to be Venezuelan President. After Mr Guaidó declared himself interim President in January 2019, the Bank of England refused to release the stash worth almost $2billion due to a lack of clarity on who runs Venezuela.

On Wednesday, after three days of hearings, the Supreme Court retired to make their decision on who owns the gold.

Lord Robert Reed, president of the Supreme Court, stated it will take time to make a decision on who rightfully owns the gold stash.

He said: “We have been entrusted with a demanding examination job.

“It will take us some time to consider all the arguments and make our ruling.”

A Supreme Court spokeswoman also said: “We do not know when the ruling will be at this stage, but it can often be several months after the hearing is held.”

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Mr Maduro, who won the 2018 Venezuelan elections which was disputed by Mr Guaidó, has accused the UK of “stealing” the gold reserves.

He said the UK’s refusal to release the funds to the BCV is the “theft of the 21st century”.

In a statement, he added: “They are stealing Venezuela’s gold reserves, which belong to the Central Bank of Venezuela, they do not belong to the Government, they belong to an independent institution.

“More than $2billion in gold, the gold bars deposited in the Bank of England.”

Due to Venezuela’s contested Presidency, the Bank of England refused to fulfil a request made by the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) to have access to the gold to buy medicines and equipment to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result, the BCV took the dispute to trial before the London Commercial Court, who ruled in July 2020 against the board appointed by Mr Maduro.

The judge presiding over the case then said that since Mr Guaidó had been “unequivocally” recognised by the UK as the president of Venezuela.

It followed a statement made by former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2019 that Mr Guaidó’s contested Government had a right over the gold.

In October, the Court of Appeals overturned the ruling and directed the High Court to conduct a detailed factual inquiry to determine whether the British Government recognises that Mr Maduro does still have de facto powers as President.

However, on Monday the UK reaffirmed their view Mr Guaidó is the “only legitimate president” of Venezuela, despite the legal team representing the BCV has insisted that such recognition is only de jure.

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In 2013, Mr Guaidó, then serving as alternate national deputy, asked the Bank of England and then-Prime Minister Theresa May not to return to the gold reserves to Mr Maduro, and to allow the opposition to access it instead.

In February 2018, Mr Maduro called for presidential elections four months before the prescribed date, and was declared the winner in May after multiple major opposition parties were banned from running.

On January 23 2019, Mr Guaidó declared himself interim President of Venezuela as he refused to recognise the inauguration of Mr Maduro to a second presidential term.

On April 30, 2019, he called for an uprising against Mr Maduro as part of “Operation Freedom”, joined by several dozen military personnel and civilians.

The uprising failed, and both of the disputed Presidents have since been negotiating the legitimacy of their respective Governments.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega



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