(Bloomberg) — The Venezuelan government has presented a letter apparently signed by Queen Elizabeth II to substantiate its claim to more than $1 billion in gold held in the Bank of England.
The diplomatic correspondence is proof that Britain recognizes Nicolás Maduro as Venezuela’s president, said Calixto Ortega, head of Venezuela’s central bank.
This undermined a judge’s decision in London last month denying the Maduro government control over gold bullion, Ortega said in an interview on Thursday. The UK’s issuance of visas to Maduro government officials also strengthens the Administration’s argument, Ortega added.
Opposition figure Juan Guaido is also seeking to reclaim control of gold in this long-running legal battle after Britain recognized him as Venezuela’s president in 2019. Maduro’s government has said it will appeal the latest court ruling.
“Three letters were signed by the queen on different days. Is this a position or not a position?” said Ortega in Paris, on his way back to Caracas from London, where he discussed the matter with his lawyer.
The UK Foreign Office did not immediately respond to a written request for comment.
The bullion, which is in the vaults of the Bank of England, represents about one-fifth of Venezuela’s $5.2 billion international reserves, excluding special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund which the country currently has no access to. .
With more legal disputes to be expected, neither the Maduro government nor Guaido and his allies are likely to gain control of the assets any time soon.
Ortega showed Bloomberg News two letters signed by Elizabeth II in June, in her capacity as queen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
In the first letter, he informed him of the change in the representative of the Caribbean nation based in Caracas, while in the second he asked Maduro to accredit the new one.
In another letter, the queen wrote to Maduro on behalf of the Government of Saint Lucia. The three letters were addressed to “His Excellency Nicolás Maduro Moros, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”
The letters were sent to Ortega by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, he said.
Queen Elizabeth is the head of state of several Caribbean countries, which are independent from London and follow their own foreign policies.
Ortega’s legal team will decide on his new strategy next week while preparing his appeal.
Trying to include the papers as new evidence could prolong the case even further, Ortega said.
Maduro’s government believes that the court’s decision has “major consequences” for other countries that have assets in the UK financial system.
“British colleagues are at stake for the jurisdiction’s reputation as one that offers the greatest neutrality and impartiality to the world’s economic agents,” Ortega said. “They said something in court and in fact they behaved differently.”
He also presented his own diplomatic passport, stamped with eight visas issued by British authorities since June 2018, as evidence that the London government recognized Maduro’s officials as legitimate.
The British charge d’affaires in Venezuela also requested a visa from the Maduro government in 2021, which was granted, he added.
British judges, including the Supreme Court, have consistently accepted Britain’s “clear and unequivocal acknowledgment” of Guaido as president. British courts are not dependent on political decision-making.
His victory at the London court has been one of the few bright spots in recent months for Guaido, whose support has faltered as Maduro maintains his grip on power.
Queen’s Letter to Maduro Used in Venezuela’s Gold Scramble (1)
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