Exclusive: Bank of England would be ‘complicit in robbery’ if it hands over Venezuelan gold to coup plotters, MP says

Ben Wray

The Bank of England has been lobbied by the US administration not to allow Venezuela to withdraw its gold

  • Bank of England has reportedly refused to allow Venezuelan government officials to withdraw its $1.2 billion in gold reserves
  • Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan suggests it could be handed over to coup leader Juan Guaidó
  • Labour MP Chris Williamson: “Handing over these gold reserves to Juan Guaidó would make the Bank of England complicit in the robbery of resources deposited in good faith”

A SUGGESTION by a Foreign Office minister that gold in Bank of England vaults belonging to the Venezuelan Government could be passed over to the leader of an attempted coup in the country is “wholly unacceptable interference in the affairs of another sovereign nation”, a Labour MP has told CommonSpace.

Bloomberg reported last week that the independent Bank of England prevented Venezuelan government officials from withdrawing $1.2 billion in gold assets deposited with the bank, after being lobbied by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

The US Government is seeking to cut off Venezuela from its overseas assets as part of an attempt to oust the regime, led by embattled President Nicolas Maduro. 

On Monday [28 January] foreign office minister Alan Duncan was asked about the gold and said it was a decision for the Bank of England to take, but he added: “…no doubt when they do so they will take into account there are now a large number of countries across the world questioning the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro and recognising that of Juan Guaidó.”

READ MORE: Analysis: SNP’s backing of the coup in Venezuela is the cost of Western alignment

Guaidó, who last week declared himself the interim President of Venezuela, has written to Theresa May asking for her to make the gold available to him.

Commenting on Duncan’s remarks, Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North, told CommonSpace: “This represents a wholly unacceptable interference in the affairs of another sovereign nation and it would be a huge breach of faith. 

“Moreover, handing over these gold reserves to Juan Guaidó would make the Bank of England complicit in the robbery of resources deposited in good faith.”

Williamson spoke in the House of Commons debate on the Venezuelan crisis on Monday, highlighting the comments by former UN special rapporteur, Alfred de Zayar, who last year became the first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years.

Zayar described the US sanctions regime on Venezuela as “economic warfare” and recommended the International Criminal Court investigate economic sanctions against Venezuela as possible crimes against humanity.

READ MORE: Analysis: The world must recognise the Venezuelan coup for what it truly is

In the report, Zayar states: “Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees.”

Venezuela is currently going through one of the worst economic crises in its history since the 2014 oil price fall, with hyper-inflation leading to food and medicine shortages, and a mass exodus from the oil-rich country.

The UN has been split on its response to Guaidó’s coup attempt, with the US, Canada, Brazil and other right-wing regimes in Latin America recognising Guaidó as President, while Russia, Mexico and Turkey are among the countries to continue to support Maduro. So far, the army has continued to support the Venezuelan government.

While not going as far as to recognise Guaidó as President, the UK has joined the European Union in saying that unless “free and fair elections” are called within a week, they will join Donald Trump in throwing their weight behind Guaidó.

This position was broadly supported by the Liberal Democrats and the SNP in the parliamentary debate on Monday.

READ MORE: Stop the War Coalition says Tory attacks on Venezuela “cannot be taken at face value” following criticism of left-wing MSPs

Senior Labour politicians, including Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, signed a letter published in The Guardian which supported the stance of Mexico and Bolivia, saying regime change is not the answer.

The letter read: “The far-right governments of Trump and Bolsonaro offer no hope to Venezuela or to the majority of people in Latin America.

“Whatever views people hold on Venezuela, there is no justification for backing the US attempt at regime change under way, which, if successful, could go the way of the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya.

“Instead, the way forward is the call for dialogue from the Mexican and Bolivian presidents.”

The Bank of England has refused to comment on the Venezuelan gold, saying it never discusses any relationships with customers.

A Labour Party spokesperson told CommonSpace it wouldn’t comment on the Foreign Office’s suggestion that the Bank of England could hand over Venezuela’s gold to Guaidó.

Picture courtesy of the Bank of England

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