LONDON — Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó won a British court ruling on Friday that brings him closer to victory in his battle with President Nicolás Maduro over a cache of gold bullion held at the Bank of England.
A High Court judge in London has ruled that British courts do not need to recognize judgments by the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela, Venezuela’s highest constitutional court, that the gold should go to Maduro.
The decision is part of a long-running dispute over the assets of Venezuela’s central bank. Two rival Banco Central de Venezuela boards – one appointed by Maduro and the other by Guaidó – are fighting to secure the release of more than 800 million pounds ($1 billion) of gold from the vaults of the Bank of England.
The British government recognizes Guaidó as President of Venezuela and the Bank of England has refused to hand over the gold to Maduro.
Judge Sara Cockerill said there was “no basis” for recognizing Venezuelan court judgments that declared Guaidó’s appointments to the bank’s board unconstitutional. She said Guaidó’s board is “so successful”.
In a statement, Guaidó said the decision was “another step in the process of protecting Venezuela’s international gold reserves and preserving them for the Venezuelan people and their future.”
A Maduro-appointed board spokesman said he was considering an appeal.
“This is an unfortunate decision that ultimately hinges on a narrow question of law regarding the recognition of foreign judgments,” said attorney Sarosh Zaiwalla, who represents Maduro’s board.
While serving as head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Guaidó challenged Maduro’s claim to the presidency, arguing that his 2018 election was rigged and invalid. Guaidó says he is the country’s interim president under provisions of the constitution that allow the head of the national legislature to take power until free elections can be held.
While a number of countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have recognized Guaido’s claim, he has never been able to assert his authority and Maduro remains in charge.