Venezuela has accused the United Kingdom (UK) of resorting to “frauds and tricks” to seize gold it has deposited in the Bank of England (BoE) by Venezuela’s Central Bank (BCV).
Back in 2020, when the then Opposition Leader Juan Guaido was recognized by the US, UK and several other European Union (EU) governments as the “legitimate” President of Venezuela, he established his own Board of Directors to run the BCV to gain access to the 1.3 billion Euros (1.6 billion Pounds Sterling) deposited in the BoE.
An initial UK High Court decision that recognized Guaidó as “interim president” — and so the controller of Venezuela’s assets — was overturned by the UK’s Court of Appeal in October 2020.
But, a year later, the UK’s Supreme Court reinstated the earlier-overturned High Court ruling that English courts are bound by the so-called “one voice” doctrine — a 19th-century legal concept whereby a statement by the UK government as to whom it recognizes as the Head of State of a foreign country must be accepted as conclusive in the English courts.
But in the past year, Guaido lost his position as Leader of the National Assembly – and has been accused of illegally accessing funds donated to his political entities to assist Venezuelans.
In response to the Supreme Court ruling on Monday, Zaiwalla & Co., lawyers for the official Board of Directors of the BCV, asserted that the UK should stop interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs.
The firm said, “Mr Guaidó’s recognition flies in the face of the reality on the ground. His appointees have no ability to act on behalf of the BCV in any effective way, or to represent it in any international legal proceedings.”
The Venezuelan government responded on Monday, in an official statement saying, “The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela rejects the baffling ruling of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, which, by resorting to legal trickery, prevents the Venezuelan State from its legitimate right to recover, through the BCV, part of its international reserves deposited in the Bank of England.”
According to Caracas, “This decision breaks the norms of Public International Law, of the Venezuelan Constitutional Order and English legislation, as it represents serious risks for the investments with which the international community has entrusted the financial system of the United Kingdom, which has resorted to frauds and tricks to illegally seize the resources with which it was entrusted.”
It went on, “The British Supreme Court of Justice has subordinated itself to the mandate of the English Executive, revealing a lack of separation of powers and impartiality — and especially of the independent actions of this justice body.”
Referring to the involvement of disgraced US-backed former opposition leader Juan Guaido, it also claims:
“The British Government resorts to a fraudulent political scheme in connivance with extremist political sectors of Venezuela led by Juan Guaidó, with the wicked aim to shamelessly steal the gold of Venezuelans and illegally seize the international reserves of the Venezuelan State, within the unlawful scheme led by Washington to rob the resources that belong to the Venezuelan people.”
Referring to Guaido’s role in the process, the statement continued, “Under the mandate of the people’s sovereignty and through voting, there is only one constitutional government in Venezuela, whose Head of State is President Nicolás Maduro Moros, whose government exercises the absolute territorial control through its legitimate institutions, as it has been recognized by the System of the United Nations and the International Community.”
Referring to the prevention of Venezuela from accessing its deposits in the BoE, the Caracas statement said: “This abusive action, expressed in this judicial decision, has hindered the execution of resources to meet the contingencies caused by the worst pandemic known to humankind, COVID-19.”
It added, however, “Our proposal to make these resources available to that end, through the United Nations (UN) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was deliberately ignored by the Supreme Court of Justice and the Government of the United Kingdom.”
The Venezuelan statement said, “In this surprising and irrational judicial decision, the English Supreme Court of Justice subordinates itself to the illegal foreign policy actions deliberately taken by the British Executive, thus openly violating their own domestic and international legislation.
“The British government is aware that these reserves are protected internationally by the immunity to which they are entitled and by the immunity granted by the domestic legislation of the United Kingdom through the Immunity Act.”
The statement concluded: “In the face of this vulgar plunder, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will continue using all the resources at its disposal to defend the gold that is part of its international reserves and the legitimate rights of the Venezuelan people, both internationally and within its own jurisdiction.
“Venezuela will continue following its course of peace and prosperity.”
The BCV originally sued the BoE in May 2020 to recover control of the gold, which it said it needs to sell to finance Venezuela’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and to bolster the health system that’s suffered from years of economic crisis generated by over 100 US sanctions.
But the BoE has refused to release the gold since 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”.
Sarosh Zaiwalla, head of the London-based firm representing Venezuela, said on Monday: “Our client looks forward to continuing this case, with a view to showing that the Board of the BCV in Caracas is the only validly-appointed authority to deal with Venezuela’s foreign assets in the interests of the Venezuelan population.”
Guaido has naturally welcomed the ruling, claiming it’s his “constitutional duty to protect the assets of the Republic for future generations.”