Control of Venezuelan gold held in London cast into doubt

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A British court on Monday threw into question who controls nearly $2 billion in Venezuelan gold stowed in a London bank vault amid a power struggle between President Nicolás Maduro and his leading rival.

The appeals court ruling set aside a British judge’s earlier decision granting control of the bullion to U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

Britain recognizes Guaidó as Venezuela's legitimate leader, while also holding diplomatic ties with Maduro. The appeals court has ordered a deeper investigation into the matter before either side is given access to the gold inside the Bank of England.

Maduro has demanded the gold. But the central bank for the United Kingdom had refused to hand it over to his government and a judge in July sided with Guaidó.

Sarosh Zaiwalla, an attorney who represents Venezuela’s Central Bank, praised Monday's decision giving the case further consideration.

The dispute hinges on the British stance toward Venezuela, a country in economic and political crisis.

The U.K. recognizes the claim to the Venezuelan presidency of Guaidó, who heads the congress, as do the United States and dozens of other countries. Guaidó proclaimed himself the interim president in early 2019, months after Maduro declared victory in an election that his critics say was rigged in his favor.

Maduro, however, maintains the support of key allies, including Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and Cuba as well as the Venezuelan military.

Despite its support for Guaidó, the British government has not granted diplomatic credentials to Vanessa Neumann, the envoy that Guaidó has named ambassador to the U.K.

Enthusiasm has been fading at home in Venezuela for Guaidó, who contends Maduro's government is illegitimate and corrupt. He has been unable to budge Maduro from power despite pressure that has included stiff U.S. sanctions against Venezuela.