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Refusal to Return Venezuelan Gold Undermines UK's Stance on COVID-19 Response - Ex-Lawmaker

© AP Photo / Ariana CubillosMembers of a military agency that transports valuables put gold bars into an armored vehicle to be taken to Venezuela's Central Bank, at the Carlota military airport in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 1, 2018
Members of a military agency that transports valuables put gold bars into an armored vehicle to be taken to Venezuela's Central Bank, at the Carlota military airport in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 1, 2018 - Sputnik International
LONDON (Sputnik) - The repeated refusal by the UK to return Venezuelan gold assets to their legitimate owner is compromising the UK's efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, especially after the Latin American nation made it clear that the money would be used exclusively for the virus response efforts, ex-lawmaker Chris Williamson said.

While voicing no public stand on the matter, the Bank of England has been turning a blind eye to Venezuela's requests to return its $1.2 billion worth of gold since early 2019, when Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido declared himself president and secured London's support for his claims to power. In April, Caracas requested that the bank sell parts of the Venezuelan gold reserves and send funds to the United Nations, assuring that the money would be used solely to fight the pandemic.  Apparently being refused, Venezuela lodged a legal claim in a London court on 14 May.

“We never should have seized the gold in the first place, but now, particularly after they [Caracas] have requested it be returned on a number of occasions and that Venezuela has been subject to unjustified sanctions from the US… If we are serious about human rights and if we are serious about a global response to this pandemic then we absolutely should return the assets,” Williamson said.

According to the former lawmaker, the Bank of England had no right to the Venezuelan gold to begin with, arguing that London’s refusal to return the frozen assets even through the UN Development Programme would effectively undermine the United Kingdom’s role in a global response to COVID-19.

“We know that they are under pressure economically and given the deadly consequences of COVID-19 you can not claim to want to have an international response, you can not claim to be supportive of human rights... when you are not prepared to support a sovereign nation, like Venezuela, to simply have their property returned to enable them to fight this deadly virus,” Williamson said.

Soon after recognition by the UK, Guaido is believed to have personally written to then-Prime Minister Theresa May and then-Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney and urged them to refuse any request from the Venezuelan authorities for the return of gold assets.

Guaido, who is also recognized by the United States, Germany, France and over 50 other countries, has claimed that President Nicolas Maduro seeks to secure the gold in a bid to “repress and brutalise the Venezuelan people”.

“In my opinion they [the UK government] are acting illegally. We have a situation where a sovereign government have essentially had their pockets picked by the UK at the behest of a fraud, Juan Guaido, who is effectively just a patsy for the US administration. I think there is no justification therefore for the decision to keep the gold and they should give it back. That was my position when it happened and it remains my position to this day,” Williamson said.

The ex-lawmaker added that the decision to keep the assets would compromise London’s reputation around the globe.

“I expect also a lot of British citizens would be horrified at what's taking place. It doesn't serve the national interest at all, and it gives a very bad look to the British reputation around the world. So this is an abuse of power and it's important we highlight that and bring them to account,” Williamson said.

The Bank of England refused to comment when contacted by Sputnik on Wednesday.



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