London High Court Judge Sara Cockerill Friday ruled against that President Nicolás Maduro's stance in the case involving Venezuela's gold reserves deposited in the Bank of England.
The gold belongs to Venezuelans, not to Maduro, opposition leader Juan Guaidó said upon learning about the British court's decision.
Access to gold reserves worth US$ 1.9 billion deposited in the Bank of England has been frozen since 2019, when many countries including the United States and the United Kingdom disowned Maduro's second term in office and declared Guaidó was Venezuela's interim president.
The British court was to decide which Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) board the Bank of England should recognize as the legitimate managers of those reserves: the one appointed by Guaidó or the one loyal to Maduro? Both boards have issued contradicting instructions regarding the management of gold reserves.
Venezuela's sitting Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) had ruled against Guaidó's interference and insisted the gold should be transferred back to the South American country.
After a four-day trial that ended on July 18, Cockerill found that she could not countenance the rulings of the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) that annulled Guaidó's appointments to that board, as there was no legal basis in the UK to do so. One of the arguments was the existence of clear evidence that the TSJ is made up of judges who support Maduro.
Although the UK considers Guaidó's appointments to be the valid ones, Judge Cockerill is still to authorize access to those reserves, an issue to be determined in a future hearing.
The Maduro-appointed BCV board has pledged to appeal Judge Cockerill's ruling next month and the new decision is not expected before September.
Maduro's legal team argues that the Government needs to sell part of the 31 tons of gold to finance its COVID-19 response, while Guaidó claims that those resources would go to allies who have helped Venezuela through its severe liquidity problems.
Guaidó also pointed out that the court's ruling represented one more step in the process of protection of Venezuela's international gold reserves and their preservation. He also regretted that honest and transparent judiciary mechanisms were not available in Venezuela, where Maduro cares more about power and money than about the people.
The opposition leader also thanked the United Kingdom for reminding the world what is possible in a democracy that respects the Rule of Law.