Gold Reserve Inc. v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela


Arnold & Porter has successfully advised the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, led by interim President Juan Guaidó, regarding access to gold reserves held by the Bank of England.

The widely publicised disagreement involved a dispute between two rivals purporting to have authority to act on behalf of the Central Bank of Venezuela in respect of gold held at the Bank of England.

Interim President Juan Guaidó’s right to act as Venezuela’s Interim President is recognized as legitimate by approximately 60 countries, including the United Kingdom. Mr. Maduro claimed to be the President of Venezuela on the grounds that he won the 2018 presidential election. The Bank of England acts as custodian for the gold, a service it provides for over £200bn in gold reserves for numerous foreign states.

On 14 May 2020, Mr Maduro’s appointees filed a claim in London’s High Court seeking a court order that would require the Bank of England to release £820m of the value of the gold which they claimed, without details of any such arrangement, would help fund the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. On 28 May 2020, the Court ordered an expedited trial to determine two preliminary issues of English law. The first was whether the UK formally recognised Mr. Guaidó as the Interim President, known as the “Recognition” issue. The second question was whether any challenge to the validity of Interim President Guaidó’s appointments in relation to the Central Bank was justiciable in an English Court, referred to as the “Justiciability” Issue.

In an expedited trial that commenced on 22 June 2020, submissions were heard in relation to both issues and on 2 July 2020 judgment was handed down in favour of Mr. Guaidó’s representatives on both issues. This first question on Recognition was answered in the affirmative; Her Majesty’s Government recognised Mr. Guaidó as the constitutional Interim President of Venezuela and therefore it followed that it no longer recognised Mr. Maduro as the president of Venezuela.

The Arnold & Porter team was led by partners Whitney Debevoise (Picture) in Washington DC and Jane Wessel in London, assisted by London associates Alastair Brown and Giles Harvey. Arnold & Porter instructed Andrew Fulton and Mark Tushingham of Twenty Essex.

Involved fees earner: Alastair Brown – Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP; Whitney Debevoise II – Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP; Giles Harvey – Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP; Jane Wessel – Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP;

Law Firms: Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP;

Clients: Republic of Venezuela;

Author: Ambrogio Visconti