Following a three-day hearing in July, the UK Supreme Court has today handed down judgment in the dispute between the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) and Mr Juan Guaidó’s representatives over €1.6bn of foreign gold reserves held at the Bank of England.
The appeal arose out of preliminary questions formulated by the Commercial Court to determine who should be recognised as having authority to give instructions concerning the gold to the Bank of England. Today’s decision sees the case remanded back to the Commercial Court for it to decide if Mr Guido’s attempt to take control of BCV’s assets overseas will be effective in England, given that Venezuela's highest court, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (STJ) has already ruled them to be unlawful. Should the STJ’s decisions be upheld, authority over the €1.6bn of gold held in the Bank of England will be returned to the BCV, to assist with Venezuela’s Covid relief efforts.
Sarosh Zaiwalla, Senior Partner at Zaiwalla & Co., representing the Banco Central de Venezuela, commented:
"The Guaidó Board has failed in its strategy of gaining control of BCV's assets in England solely by resolving preliminary questions of law in the English Court. We are 19 months into this case, which will now continue further following today’s Supreme Court judgment. Throughout this time, Mr Guaidó’s case is being funded by BCV funds seized in America, while assets in the United Kingdom remain paralysed and unavailable to be used to fight the Covid pandemic in Venezuela.
"In the last few months, Mr Guaidó’s opposition bloc has begun to disintegrate, and one of the alleged grounds of discord was Mr Guaidó's handling of the country’s international assets, citing a lack of transparency.
“Our client looks forward to continuing this case, with a view to showing that the Board of the BCV in Caracas is the only validly appointed authority to deal with Venezuela’s foreign assets in the interests of the Venezuelan population. This reality, recognised by the highest judicial authorities in Venezuela, should be acknowledged by the English Courts, which should not sit in judgment on what a foreign court has decided.
“Mr Guaidó's recognition flies in the face of the reality on the ground. His appointees have no ability to act on behalf of the BCV in any effective way, or to represent it in any international legal proceedings.
“This decision relies on a legal doctrine from the 19th Century and it could have the effect of validating a new approach to regime change, which has potentially serious and adverse ramifications for the UK as a safe repository for sovereign assets.”
Sarosh's comments have been featured in the following publications: Bloomberg, Bloomberg (Portuguese), The Independent, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Daily Mail, France24, the Financial Times, Law.com, Agencia Efes, Prensa Latina, Agência Lusa, Sputnik International, The Guardian, The Telegraph, BBC News, NBC News and Venezuela Analysis.