$1 Billion Gold Case Pits Maduro, BOE in Fight of Law, Politics

(Bloomberg) — A lawyer for the government of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro urged a London court not to confuse law and politics in a battle over $1 billion in gold held by the Bank of England.

While nations including the U.S. dismissed his 2018 re-election as rigged, the Maduro administration sets the budget, appoints officials and collects taxes, making him Venezuela’s legal head of government, Nick Vineall argued at a hearing on Monday.

Venezuela’s central bank sued the Bank of England for access to the gold that it says is urgently needed in a joint effort with the United Nations Development fund to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. The bullion has been in limbo since U.S. officials successfully lobbied their British counterparts last year to block Maduro’s attempt to withdraw the gold.

“One must be careful to disentangle the law from the politics,” Vineall said. “It’s vital to remember that recognition of a government doesn’t imply approval. Conversely, approval in a political sense does not imply recognition.”

The Venezuelan opposition, led by Juan Guaido who is backed by the U.S. and more than 50 other countries, has also laid claim to the gold.

Read more: Guaido Wants Role in BOE Spat Over $1 Billion in Venezuelan Gold

While the U.S., Canada and others have broken off diplomatic relations with Venezuela, the fact the U.K. has not means that the British government continues to recognize the legitimacy of the current government, Vineall said.

“Her Majesty’s government maintains full, reciprocal and normal relations with Venezuela, he said, “and that is consistent with the recognition of Mr. Maduro’s government.”

Justice Nigel Teare, who is overseeing the case, didn’t give an indication of when a ruling is expected.