"Maduro Board" of the Central Bank of Venezuela v "Guaido Board" of the Central Bank of Venezuela 2020 EWCA Civ 1249 - 5 October 2020
This is an appeal from a judgment of Teare J on two preliminary issues which it was hoped would determine which of two contending claimants is entitled to give instructions to financial institutions within this jurisdiction on behalf of the Central Bank of Venezuela ("the BCV"). The Bank of England holds gold reserves of about US $1.95 billion for the BCV, while Deutsche Bank is obliged to pay the proceeds of a gold swap contract to the BCV in the sum of about US $120 million, which sum is currently held by court appointed receivers.
The preliminary issues reflect the widely publicised dispute as to who is the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro Moros or Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez. Mr Maduro claims to be the President of Venezuela on the ground that he won the 2018 presidential election. Mr Guaidó claims to be the Interim President of Venezuela on the ground that the 2018 presidential election was flawed, that on that account there was no President and that, under the Venezuelan Constitution, the President of the National Assembly, Mr Guaidó, became the Interim President of Venezuela, pending fresh presidential elections.
The two competing claimants to the funds held by the Bank of England and the court appointed receivers have been referred to in these proceedings as the "Maduro Board" and the "Guaidó Board". It is convenient to use these terms, although the Maduro Board does not accept their accuracy. It claims to be the only validly appointed board of the BCV, appointed by Mr Maduro as President of Venezuela and, as such, authorised to give instructions on its behalf. The Guaidó Board, on the other hand, claims to be an Ad Hoc board of the BCV, appointed by Mr Guaidó. It does not claim any right to control of the BCV's assets in Venezuela, but it does claim to be authorised to give instructions on behalf of the BCV in relation to the assets of the BCV in this jurisdiction. The Guaidó Board claims that Mr Guaidó was entitled to make these appointments by virtue of a statute known as the Transition Statute. The Maduro Board has challenged the right of Mr Guaidó to make these appointments, contending that they are null and void (and have been held to be so) under Venezuelan law.