Wednesday 20 May 2020 5:41 pm

Venezuela sues Bank of England to force access to $1bn gold reserves

Venezuela’s central bank has submitted a legal claim to make the Bank of England hand over $1bn in gold reserves so President Maduro can finance the country’s coronavirus response.

According to a legal filing submitted today, Venezuela has asked the BoE to liquidate the funds and send them to the United Nations to help battle the spread of the disease in the South American state.

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The request, which was originally made in April, said the central bank was seeking “an order requiring BoE to comply with the proposed instruction”.

England’s central 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.

The global collapse in oil prices has also hammered the petroleum-rich state’s finances.

The funds, once transferred to the United Nations Development Programme, would be used to buy healthcare equipment, medicine, and food to address Venezuela’s “COVID-19 emergency,” a document seen by Reuters said.

In a statement, London-based lawyer Sarosh Zaiwalla, who is representing the bank, said: “The foot-dragging by the Bank of England is critically hampering Venezuela and the UN’s efforts to combat Covid-19 in the country”.

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According to data from Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker, there are currently 749 cases in Venezuela and 10 deaths.

Officials at the BOE and the Venezuelan central bank declined to comment.