The Bank of England has cut off access to $1.2 billion of Venezuela’s gold assets from the regime of Nicolás Maduro, sources have told Bloomberg.
The British central bank halted the regime’s accessing the $1.2bn (£910 million) after U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had allegedly lobbied their UK counterparts to deny Maduro access to his overseas assets, people familiar with the situation told the broadcaster.
The funds represent a part of the some $8bn (£6.06bn) held in foreign reserves by the Venezuelan central bank. It is believed, according to Bloomberg, that in mid-December the president of Venezuela’s central bank, Calixto Ortega, led a delegation to London to access the gold reserves but was unsuccessful.
The Bank of England did not return comment on whether the Maduro regime had been cut off from Venezuela’s British-held assets, but told Bloomberg the central bank “provides banking services – including gold custody services – to a large number of customers” and that it “does not comment on any of those relationships.”
On Wednesday, the U.S. recognised National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.
President Donald J. Trump said the Venezuelan National Assembly, a unicameral government body, was the “only legitimate branch of government” remaining in the country, adding, “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) January 25, 2019
The United Kingdom recognised Mr Guaido as interim president shortly thereafter. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said ahead of a meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo on Thursday, “We are extremely concerned about the situation in Venezuela, but it is clear that Nicolás Maduro is not the legitimate leader of Venezuela.
“The election on 20th May was deeply flawed; ballot boxes were stuffed, there were counting irregularities and the opposition was banned. This regime has done untold damage to the people of Venezuela, 10% of the population have left Venezuela such is the misery they are suffering.
“So the United Kingdom believes Juan Guaido is the right person to take Venezuela forward. We are supporting the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Argentina to make that happen.”
The UK has so far been the only European Union nation to back the U.S., Canada, and most of South America in backing Mr Guaido.
While stressing its support for public protest against socialist former President Maduro, the progressive, left-wing bloc has stopped short of recognising Mr Guaido as interim leader, calling instead for fresh elections.
“The EU strongly calls for the start of an immediate political process leading to free and credible elections, in conformity with the Constitutional order,” Brussels policy chief Federica Mogherini said.