"What M. Guaido wants from this court is to examine a clear statement of recognition", lawyer Andrew Fulton said during the presentation of his submissions to the London court hearing an appeal filed by the board of the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) appointed by Venezuela’s constitutional President Nicolas Maduro.
The lawyers representing Maduro are appealing a verdict issued by the High Court of England and Wales, which in July ruled against the BCV in a legal dispute with the Bank of England over 31 tonnes of Venezuelan gold deposited in its vaults.
The judge presiding over the case then said that since Guaido had been "unequivocally" recognised by the United Kingdom as the president of Venezuela, following a statement made by then-Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2019, the BCV board appointed by him had a right over the gold bullion valued at an estimated $1.2 billion.
As lawyer Nick Vineall explained, a de jure government is one in which, in the opinion of the person using the phrase, ought to hold the powers, while a de facto government is the one actually in possession of such powers.
Responding to Vineall’s claims on Wednesday, Fulton tried to convince the three judges overseeing the appeal that although Maduro is the constitutional head of state of Venezuela, Guaido was received by top UK government officials when he visited London early this year.
Vineall recalled, however, that Maduro’s ambassador, Rocio Maneiro, is the official representative of the Venezuelan government in London, while the UK government also keeps its ambassador in Caracas.
"Mr Guaido has no real powers in Venezuela. It’s a paper exercise", Vineall stressed, calling Hunt's recognition of Guaido a "political statement".
According to the BCV legal team, the money resulting from the sale of the gold will be used to buy medical equipment and medicine for the country's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legal battle for the gold began after Guaido declared himself an interim president in the wake of public protests in Venezuela back in January 2019. Then, the Bank of England said it will not fulfil the request to give back the gold it stored to Venezuela over the lack of clarity as to who was entitled to receive it.