London — A British appeals court ruled in favour of the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro, and said the legal fight over the future of $1bn in gold stored in the vaults of the Bank of England (BOE) should be reconsidered.

The judges on Monday reversed a lower-court ruling that the UK had unequivocally recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president, giving the Maduro administration another shot at getting control of the gold. The UK government’s statements on Guaido do not reflect the reality of London’s continued diplomatic relations with Maduro, the justices led by judge Stephen Males said.

The UK’s recognition “is to my mind ambiguous, or at any rate less than unequivocal”, Males said in the ruling.

Venezuela’s central bank sued the BOE for access to the bullion, which has been in limbo since US officials successfully lobbied their British counterparts in 2019 to block Maduro’s attempt to withdraw the assets.

The UK government last year said it recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president until new, credible elections can be held. But Males said the foreign office should be asked to clarify whether it accepts that Maduro exercises power on the ground as president.

“The lower court judgment had led to a completely unrealistic situation,” Sarosh Zaiwalla, a lawyer for the Maduro-appointed central bank, said in a statement. The administration in control of the mint and day-to-day operations of the central bank in Caracas, “were being told that they could no longer deal with very substantial central bank deposits in London”.

Guaido’s envoy in London, Vanessa Neumann, said, the UK’s foreign ministry “will have a strong motivation to continue its foreign policy in support of Guaido”.

“The UK court is not going to hand over the gold to the Maduro regime,” Neumann said.


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