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High Court rejects Maduro attempt to reclaim $1bn of Venezuelan gold from UK

Telegraph reporters
Nicolas Maduro gives a speech - AP

The Government has "unequivocally recognised" opposition leader Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela, the High Court has ruled in a battle over $1bn (£800m) of gold bullion held in the vaults of the Bank of England.

Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) took legal action to release the gold held on its behalf, which it wants to sell to help tackle the country's coronavirus crisis.

BCV says it has agreed to transfer the funds to the United Nations Development Programme to buy "healthcare equipment, medicines and basic foodstuffs".

But the Bank of England said it is "caught in the middle" of rival claims to the gold, from the BCV board appointed by Nicolas Maduro and an "ad hoc" board appointed by Mr Guaido.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Teare said: "Her Majesty's Government does recognise Mr Guaido in the capacity of the constitutional interim president of Venezuela and, it must follow, does not recognise Mr Maduro as the constitutional interim president of Venezuela.

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At a four-day preliminary hearing in June,  the "Maduro board" QC Nicholas Vineall argued that the UK "unequivocally recognised" the government of Mr Maduro despite considering his position to be "illegitimate".

He added that recognising Mr Guaido as head of state would be "an impermissible intervention in the affairs of Venezuela" and also "unlawful under international law".

Andrew Fulton, representing the "Guaido board" of the BCV, said the UK Government "has decided to recognise Juan Guaido as the constitutional interim president of Venezuela and has denounced the illegitimate, kleptocratic Maduro regime".

He added that the UK's anti-Maduro stance meant the "claims are doomed".