Venezuela sues Bank of England over gold reserves

In February last year, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro accused the Bank of England of holding onto ‘more than 80 tonnes of gold’ that belonged to his country. — Miraflores Palace handout via Reuters
In February last year, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro accused the Bank of England of holding onto ‘more than 80 tonnes of gold’ that belonged to his country. — Miraflores Palace handout via Reuters

LONDON, May 22 ― Lawyers for Venezuela's central bank said yesterday they had launched legal action against the Bank of England, demanding the release of gold reserves to be used to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

London-based firm Zaiwalla & Co said it had been instructed by the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) “to issue a claim against the Bank of England for the release of US$1 billion of Venezuela's gold reserves to help the country combat Covid-19”.

It said BCV wrote last month to the Bank of England requesting the gold be transferred to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which is working to tackle the spread of coronavirus in the cash-strapped country.

“The BoE refused to confirm it would act on instructions on the basis that it does not recognise the authority of the current management of the BCV and the Venezuelan government,” the firm said.

In February last year, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro accused the Bank of England of holding onto “more than 80 tonnes of gold” that belonged to his country.

But opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognised as Venezuela's true leader by around 50 countries including Britain, has asked London not to release it.

In submissions to the High Court, revealed at a remote hearing yesterday, the Bank of England said it was “caught in the middle” of rival claims to control the BCV.

Its lawyer Brian Kennelly said that if the BCV board appointed by Maduro was not “the duly authorised representatives of the BCV, then it would be unlawful for the Bank of England to deal with the gold in accordance with their instructions”.

Samuel Moncada, Venezuela's ambassador to the United Nations, accused the Bank of England of a “crime against humanity”.

“It is not the first time that the Bank of England has acted as a looting agent against the people. Now it violates contracts and swindles nations by taking advantage of the pandemic,” he tweeted.

The case was adjourned for a trial in June. ― AFP

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