Venezuela’s central bank has sued the Bank of England for access to $1 billion in gold reserves to combat the coronavirus.
The Venezuelan bank asked the BOE to liquidate the gold and send the funds to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which is working with the country to prepare for an increase in covid-19 cases, Zaiwalla & Co., a London law firm representing Venezuela, said Wednesday in a statement.
While the coronavirus pandemic adds a dramatic new twist to the dispute, the lawsuit is part of a long-running fight over the funds related to American efforts to cut off President Nicolas Maduro’s regime from its overseas assets.
Last year, U.S. officials successfully lobbied their British counterparts to block Maduro’s attempt to withdraw $1.2 billion in Venezuelan gold stored in the Bank of England.
“The foot-dragging by the Bank of England is critically hampering Venezuela and the UN’s efforts to combat covid-19,” Sarosh Zaiwalla, senior partner at Zaiwalla & Co, said in the statement.
“The Venezuelan people are deeply threatened by this pandemic given the collapse in oil prices and the effects of US economic sanctions on the country. By holding on to Venezuela’s gold reserves, the Bank of England is putting many thousands of lives at risk.”
Officials at the BOE and the Venezuelan central bank declined to comment.
(By Anthony Aarons)