U.K. Supreme Court Says Juan Guaidó is Venezuelan President in Fight Over $2B in Gold

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó was recognized as the country's interim president by the U.K. Supreme Court Monday in a case that revolves around warring claims to $2 billion in gold held by the Bank of England. Both Guaidó and President Nicolás Maduro have named different boards to oversee the nation's central bank, and both are bidding for control of the gold.

Guaidó has contested Maduro's 2018 presidential election win, claiming that his victory was fixed and, therefore, not valid.

The leader of Venezuela's National Assembly, Guaidó, has been arguing that he is rightfully the nation's interim president because of constitutional provisions that permit the leader of the legislature to take on the presidential powers until the state can hold free elections.

The U.K. government recognized Guaidó as interim president in 2019, and a five-judge panel decided unanimously Monday that British courts must follow that ruling.

Some other countries, such as the U.S., have also recognized Guaidó as interim president, but Maduro has not ceded his seat, and the opposition leader has not been able to take the power or authority he argues is his under the constitution.

Guaidon Recognized as Interim President
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó was recognized as the country's interim president by the U.K. Supreme Court Monday in a case that revolves around warring claims to $2 billion in gold held by the Bank of England. Above, Guaido swears himself in as President of the National Assembly with opposition lawmaker votes at the newspaper El Nacional's headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela, on January 5, 2020. Andrea Hernandez Briceño/AP Photo

But the case isn't over. The U.K. Supreme Court sent it back to a lower court to decide whether the Guaidó board has any legal standing after Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice declared Guaidó's appointments unconstitutional.

Guaidó said he welcomed the ruling and looked forward to demonstrating why the U.K. courts shouldn't recognize the decisions of the Supreme Tribunal.

"When we so demonstrate, the ... board appointed by President Guaidó will assume control of the reserves and protect them from the depredations of the usurper Maduro regime," he said in a statement.

Attorneys for the Maduro Board said it remains the only "validly appointed authority" to oversee the central bank's foreign assets and that ignoring the rulings of the Venezuelan courts would "fly in the face of the rule of law."

They criticized the Guaidó camp for drawing out the litigation for 19 months, leaving the central bank's assets frozen and unavailable for use for helping people in Venezuela suffering through the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Mr. Guaidó's recognition flies in the face of the reality on the ground,'' said Sarosh Zaiwalla, a senior partner at Zaiwalla & Co., representing the Maduro board. "His appointees have no ability to act on behalf of the (bank) in any effective way, or to represent it in any international legal proceedings."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
Both Juan Guaidó and President Nicolás Maduro have named different boards to oversee the nation's central bank, and both are bidding for control of the gold. Above, Maduro gestures as he speaks during the State of The Nation Report 'Memoria y Cuenta 2020' at Palacio Federal Legislativo on January 12, 2021, in Caracas, Venezuela. Carolina Cabral/Getty Images