Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza has lambasted the British High Court's move to recognise Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the president of the Latin American country.
Arreaza tweeted on Thursday that Caracas "rejects the opinion" of the UK court, which "seeks to strip our country of its international gold reserves at the Bank of England, and will initiate the corresponding legal procedures to appeal such an absurd decision".
According to Arreaza's attached press release from the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, "President Nicolas Maduro […] has requested that Venezuelan judicial bodies initiate the necessary procedures to punish those involved in the theft of Venezuelan gold and to ensure that justice is done".
The statement comes after the British High Court said in a ruling that the UK government "has unequivocally" recognised Guaido as Venezuelan president, adding that "there is no room for recognition of Mr Guaido as de jure president and of Mr Maduro as de facto president".
The Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), in turn, argued that London, which maintains diplomatic relations with Caracas, "recognised" the government of the elected president despite calling him "illegitimate".
The BCV also cautioned that the UK recognising Guaido would be a violation of international laws and an "impermissible intervention in the affairs of Venezuela".about $1.13 billion worth of Venezuelan gold, refusing to give Maduro's government access to it or transfer the gold to another bank.
In May, the BCV filed a legal claim in a commercial court in London to try to force the Bank of England to transfer Venezuela's gold reserves to fund the nation's coronavirus response.
Venezuela's push to release its frozen gold assets in the UK began after the US and other western countries refused to recognise the results of the 2018 presidential election in Venezuela, in which Maduro secured an overwhelming victory for another term amid an economic meltdown in the country.
After the US slapped a raft of economic sanctions against Venezuela, the South American nation’s financial assets were frozen in a number of foreign countries. The situation worsened after Guaido proclaimed himself interim president contesting Maduro's claim to the country's gold assets, including those in the UK.