“Mr. Maduro’s government is in complete control of Venezuela and its administrative institutions, and only it can ensure the distribution of the humanitarian relief and medical supplies needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” Mr. Zaiwalla said.
Vanessa Neumann, Mr. Guaidó’s representative in Britain, thanked the British government in a message posted on Twitter “for standing up for Venezuelan democracy.”
Mr. Maduro unsuccessfully tried to withdraw the gold from Britain since 2018, as he grew wary that the gold could be caught up in international sanctions. Venezuela relies on oil but it also is not of short of gold, and it has become dependent on the hard currency it can raise from gold sales to import basic products and consumer goods.
In early 2019, after the Bank of England refused to hand the gold to the Bank of Venezuela, Mr. Guaidó urged the then-prime minister, Theresa May, to grant him access to the reserve, but she rejected the request.
British officials have repeatedly sided with the United States in maintaining sanctions against Venezuela. Mr. Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton, in his recent book about his time at the White House, recounted how in 2019, Britain’s foreign minister at the time, Jeremy Hunt, “was delighted to cooperate on steps they could take, for example freezing Venezuelan deposits in the Bank of England, so the regime could not sell the gold to keep itself going.”
It was unclear whether Thursday’s ruling means that Mr. Guaidó could now claim the gold. The 36-year-old politician met with President Trump and dozens of world leaders early this year, but his appeal has dwindled at home and his rallies have drawn ever-smaller crowds.
Venezuela’s economy, relying on the some of the world’s largest oil reserves and devastated by American sanctions, has been in survival mode, according to experts, with the already dismal situation made worse after oil prices plummeted in March.