Following a four-day hearing last week during which the High Court in London heard arguments from representatives of the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) and the Ad Hoc Board appointed by Juan Guaidó, Mr Justice Teare today handed down a Judgment ruling that Her Majesty’s Government has formally recognised Mr Guaidó as the “constitutional interim President of Venezuela”, and that due to the ‘One Voice’ and ‘Act of State’ doctrines the Court is precluded from investigating the validity of Mr Guaidó’s acts.
Sarosh Zaiwalla, senior partner at Zaiwalla & Co, representing the Banco Central de Venezuela, commented:
“The Banco Central de Venezuela will be seeking leave of the court to appeal this Judgment, which it considers entirely ignores the reality of the situation on the ground. None of the Board members of the so called ‘ad hoc Administrative Board’ of BCV appointed by the Mr Guaidó have been resident in Venezuela for some years now. Mr Maduro’s government is in complete control of Venezuela and its administrative institutions, and only it can ensure the distribution of the humanitarian relief and medical supplies needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic. This is the reason why it issued a claim against the Bank of England, which had refused to act on its instructions to assist in permitting Venezuela’s gold reserves to be used to fund efforts by the United Nations Development Programme to purchase food, medicine and medical equipment for the use of the Venezuelan people during the coronavirus pandemic. This outcome will now delay matters further, to the detriment of the Venezuelan people whose lives are at risk”
It is very rare for a case of such international legal importance to be decided by reference to legal questions alone without taking into account the facts on the ground, and still rarer for an English Commercial Court to be told that it can only decide a question in the way that the Government says it must. This has led to the unusual result in this case that while at the same time acknowledging the UK’s full diplomatic relations with Mr Maduro’s government, the Court has also upheld as valid in England Mr Guaidó’s acts of appointment which are considered unlawful and invalid in Venezuela.
On BCV’s case, the continuation of diplomatic relations shows that Mr Maduro is still recognised, de facto, as President by the United Kingdom, and it is unjust to expect the Courts to adhere to the idea of the UK having ‘One Voice’ when it comes to recognition when the Government itself does not. Sarosh Zaiwalla further commented:
“The BCV considers it deeply unsatisfactory that the English Court arrived at these conclusions without considering the fact that the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Venezuela had ruled the Statute on which Mr Guaidó’s appointments depend to be unconstitutional and unlawful in Venezuela. The UK Government’s statement, interpreted by this judgment as a formal statement of recognition, has regrettably compelled the court to decide in one way without permitting it to take into account evidence to the contrary.”
The case is Banco Central de Venezuela v The Governor and Company of The Bank of England, claim number CL–2020–000304.
Banco Central de Venezuela is represented by Nicholas Vineall QC, instructed by Zaiwalla & Co.
The interests of Mr Juan Guaidó are represented by Andrew Fulton, instructed by Arnold & Porter.
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