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The UK’s High Court ruled against the Venezuelan government over the weekend in a long-running case pitting President Nicolás Maduro’s regime against his rival, Juan Guaidó, for control of Venezuela’s gold reserves, Agence France-Presse reported.

The case centers on demands from President Maduro’s government to release the country’s gold assets – valued at more than $1 billion but held by the Bank of England – to aid Venezuela’s ailing economy.

The Maduro administration has been unable to access the reserves because the UK – and also the United States – recognizes Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president, the Associated Press noted.

Two opposing boards of the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) – one nominated by Maduro and the other by Guaidó – are vying for the release of the gold. However, Venezuela’s top court, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, which is packed with pro-government judges, blocked Guaidó’s appointments and considered them unconstitutional.

The UK High Court, however, said there was “no basis” for the recognition of the judgments of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, adding there was “clear evidence” the Venezuelan top court had been filled with Maduro-supporting judges – although it also noted the evidence was not conclusive.

The decision brings opposition leader Guaidó a step closer to taking control of the gold reserves. Still, the case is not quite settled because the UK’s Supreme Court ruled last year that the matter should be reviewed again by the lower Commercial Court in London.

The Venezuelan government said it would appeal, while the BCV accused the UK court of violating international law.

The case is part of a years-long saga between Maduro and Guaidó following the 2018 presidential election. The US and its allies accused Maduro of rigging the polls and severed diplomatic relations with Venezuela in 2019.

Guaidó, who at the time was head of the Venezuelan legislature, declared himself interim president, citing the constitution. Even so, he has never been able to assert his authority, despite international recognition.

Meanwhile, the US dispatched a high-level delegation to Venezuela in March this year, days after Russia attacked Ukraine, in a tentative step toward thawing relations with the Latin American nation.

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