USA

British judge denies Venezuela access to gold in bank vault

LONDON (AP) — A British judge on Thursday refused to give Venezuela control of over $1 billion in gold sitting in a Bank of England vault, ruling that it is unlawful to give it to the President Nicolás Maduro since Britain does not recognize him as the president.

Maduro has demanded the gold to help his cash-starved nation fight the coronavirus pandemic.

But the central bank for the United Kingdom, whose government recognizes Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as his country’s legitimate leader, had refused to hand it over to Maduro’s socialist administration.

Guaidó has sought to preserve the gold stash at the Bank of England to keep it out of the hands of the Maduro government.

Banco Central de Venezuela sought to release the gold, which it wants to sell for food and medical equipment that is desperately needed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

A lawyer representing Maduro’s side promised to appeal.

Sarosh Zaiwalla said in a statement that the judgment “entirely ignores the reality of the situation on the ground” in Venezuela.

“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,” he said. “This outcome will now delay matters further, to the detriment of the Venezuelan people whose lives are at risk.”

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