1. The essence of this case concerns control of approximately half of the Republic of Venezuela’s substantial gold reserves, worth about US$1.95 billion, which are held by the Bank of England and the sum of approximately US$120 million held by receivers appointed by the Court.
2. However the route to that essential question is somewhat convoluted and I deal in this judgment with one step in a long and complex legal chain. That step may (subject to appeals) be the final step, or it may not. The parties to this dispute hold very different views on this topic - as on most others.
3. The question as to the ownership and right to control the gold and the sum held by the receivers arises because:
i) In the first claim, by an arbitration claim form dated 14 May 2019, the claimant (“Deutsche Bank”) sought, pursuant to section 44 of the Arbitration Act 1996, the appointment of receivers to hold and manage the proceeds of a gold swap contract concluded between it and the Central Bank of Venezuela (“BCV”) in 2015-2017. The court appointed the receivers and the claimant transferred the proceeds of the gold swap contract to them.
ii) In the second claim, by a claim form dated 14 May 2020, the claimant (“the BCV”), upon the instructions of the Maduro Board, issued proceedings against the defendants (“The Bank of England”), claiming that the Bank of England was in breach of its obligation to accept instructions from the Maduro Board with regard to payment of gold reserves held for the BCV. In response, the Bank of England filed a stakeholder application under CPR Part 86 and sought an order for the Court to determine upon whose instructions (as between the Guaidó Board and the Maduro Board) the Bank of England was authorised to act.
4. There are two contenders for the role of Head of State of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Mr Maduro and Mr Guaidó.. They would not in the ordinary course of events control the gold or the sum held by the receivers directly, because the deposit was originally made by the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV). Each of Mr Maduro and Mr Guaidó have appointed Boards, which they say have the right to make those decisions. Correspondingly each Board claims to be entitled to represent the BCV in relation to the assets of the BCV in this jurisdiction.