July 2 (UPI) -- A British court on Thursday denied Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro access to $1.8 billion worth of gold held in the Bank of England, ruling that the British government does not recognize him as Venezuela's leader.
High Court Judge Nigel Teare ruled that the Venezuelan Central Bank, whose board is appointed by Maduro, was not entitled to make the request as Britain instead recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's president.
"Her majesty's government does recognize Guaido in the capacity of the constitutional interim president of Venezuela and, it must follow, does not recognize Maduro as the constitutional interim president of Venezuela," Teare said.
The Venezuelan Central Bank sought to withdraw the gold to forward proceeds to the United Nations' efforts to combat COVID-19 but the Bank of England refused to release it, claiming it received conflicting instructions from both entities claiming to serve as Venezuela's government.
Venezuela responded by issuing a legal challenge and Sarosh Zaiwalla, a partner at the firm representing the bank said his clients would appeal while condemning the court for "entirely ignoring the reality of the situation on the ground" saying the ruling would delay funds meant to help the people of Venezuela.
"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," Zaiwalla said.
The Maduro government and the opposition have been engaged in a battle for control over the country since Guaido declared himself interim president in January 2019.
Dozens of countries, including Britain and the United States, have since backed Guaido as Venezuela's leader.