The High Court has ruled against Venezuela’s government in a legal battle over who controls $1bn (£799m) of gold reserves stored in the Bank of England.
The Court ruled that the UK had “unequivocally recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as president”, rather than Nicolas Maduro, in a severe blow to Maduro’s cash-strapped administration.
The case comes after Maduro’s government launched legal action against the BoE to try and force it to release the gold.
Guiado had asked the Bank not to hand over the gold to the administration, arguing that it would be used for corrupt purposes.
After initially submitting a request for the central bank to hand over the reserves in April, Maduro’s administration submitted a legal claim last week to make the BoE hand over the reserves to finance the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
The Bank has been delaying the transfer of 31 tonnes of gold to President Maduro since 2018, because the UK does not recognise him as Venezuela’s official leader.
Due to crippling sanctions against his regime implemented by the US, selling its gold reserves is one of the few options Maduro has to raise money to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in Venezuela.
The global collapse in oil prices has also hammered the petroleum-rich state’s finances, as well as global quarantine measures.
Lawyers for Venezuela’s Maduro-backed central bank said they would seek to appeal the High Court’s judgement.