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Legal issues to decide the fate of gold reserves over $ 1 billion

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a press conference at the Miraflores Government Palace on March 12, 2020 in Caracas, Venezuela.

Carolina Cabral | Getty Images

Venezuela’s rival leaders have been embroiled in a legal battle to determine the fate of over $ 1 billion in gold reserves stored in the Bank of England’s branches, with a Supreme Court ruling expected in the coming days.

The hearing, which began in London on Monday and is expected to last four days, is an extraordinary case for a country hit by the South American crisis.

Venezuela’s central bank, controlled by President Nicolas Maduro, is seeking an order to force the Bank of England to hand over most of the country’s gold reserves.

Lawyers representing Maduro have argued that the funds will be transferred directly to the United Nations Development Program in order to help the country’s response to coronavirus pandemic.

However, National Assembly leader Juan Guaido believes the rod should be under his control as the UK government, along with nearly 60 other world leaders, recognizes him as the interim legitimate president of Venezuela.

“Gold in parentheses at the Bank of England is our national reserve. It belongs to our people, to secure the future of our nation,” Vanessa Neumann, London’s chief diplomat, told Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido in a statement on Monday.

“It should not be stolen because the transnational criminal organization that is the Maduro regime has stolen everything else. It should not be handed over to our enemies, their partners in crime and terror and our oppression.”

Venezuela’s central bank filed a lawsuit in a commercial court on May 14, saying the money would be used to administer food purchases and medical supplies in order to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Last month, a group of experts at the United Nations warned hospitals in the country had reported a shortage of medical supplies and protective equipment.

So far, more than 4,100 people have contracted coronavirus in Venezuela, with 35 deaths across the country, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido addresses the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on January 23, 2020.

COFFRINI factory | AFP through Getty Images

“Maduro claims they want to use it as humanitarian aid to deal with Covid-19. This is very unlikely to happen in part because the UK does not recognize the Maduro administration as legitimate, they recognize Guaido as president. temporary constitutional, “Diego Moya-Ocampos, chief analyst at Venezuela’s London-based consulting firm IHS Mark, told CNBC by telephone.

“But they’re also unlikely to transfer him to Guaido, so I think the money will stay here,” he added.

“It is significant because it is a lot of money for Venezuela, for both sides,” Moya-Ocampos continued. “If that money were to be transferred in one way or another, it could certainly be a mechanical player.”

How did we get here?

The Bank of England is the second largest gold custodian in the world, second only to the Federal Reserve of New York.

The central banks of many developing countries retain their national gold reserves in hajj at the central bank of the United Kingdom and Venezuela is one of them. In January 2019, the Bank of England refused to allow Venezuela to take gold from its carts and return to South America.

He has since refused to comment publicly on the decision. Venezuela has been mired in political stalemate for nearly 18 months, with which it has an internationally recognized government, with no control over state functions, running parallel to the Maduro regime.

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