UCL Faculty of Laws


Online | Who has access to Venezuela’s gold in the Bank of England?

30 November 2020, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm

Image of the Venezualan flag painted on a brick wall

This UCL Laws Webinar will explore questions of English law and international law involving rival governments, including those raised in the proceedings before the English courts

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UCL Laws

Who has access to Venezuela’s gold in the Bank of England? Contested governments and state assets situated abroad


  • Peter Webster (Essex Court Chambers)
  • Dr Federica Paddeu (Queens College, Cambridge)
  • Prof. Dr. Tom Ruys (Ghent University)
  • Niko Pavlopoulos (UCL Laws)


  • Prof. Alex Mills (UCL Laws)

About the lecture

Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó both claim to be the President of Venezuela. Their rival claims have raised controversial questions in many contexts, including before English courts, where appointees of each ostensible President claim the authority to instruct financial institutions in England on behalf of the Central Bank of Venezuela. About US $2 (£1.51) billion is at stake, principally in the form of gold reserves held by the Bank of England for the Central Bank of Venezuela.

This UCL Webinar will explore the questions raised in the proceedings before the English courts and engage with the broader range of issues that arise in situations involving rival governments, with regard to both English law and public international law. The speakers will shed light on the following: the main issues in the proceedings involving the Central Bank of Venezuela before English courts; the law and practice on the recognition of governments, including in relation to the ongoing situation in Venezuela; the international legal framework for identifying the government of a state; and the relevance of the prohibition on interstate intervention to the decisions of states concerning the identity of foreign governments.


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About the speakers

Peter Webster is a barrister, practising principally in commercial law and international law from Essex Court Chambers in London. He has appeared in a number of cases raising international law issues before the English Courts and also before a variety of international tribunals. Before starting practice as a barrister, he worked as a solicitor and as a Judicial Assistant at the UK Supreme Court. He graduated LL B (Hons, First Class) and Ph D from the University of Edinburgh, where he also taught for several years.

Dr Federica Paddeu is the Derek Bowett Fellow in Law at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law. She holds a law degree from Universidad Catolica Andres Bello in Caracas, Venezuela, and an LLM and PhD in international law from Cambridge. She has written on diverse aspects of the use of force, investment law and State responsibility. Her monograph, Justification and Excuse in International Law was published by CUP in 2018 and a co-edited book on Exceptions in International Law was published by OUP earlier this year.

Niko Pavlopoulos is a Teaching Fellow at Durham Law School and at University College London (UCL) Laws, where he is also a PhD candidate. His thesis on The Identity of Governments in International Law is supervised by Professors Roger O’Keefe and Alex Mills. He holds an LLM in International Law (Distinction) from UCL, and an LLB (First Class Honours) from the University of Southampton, with a year at KU Leuven. He has undertaken research for, among others, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, the International Bar Association, and Judge James Crawford of the International Court of Justice.

Prof. Dr. Tom Ruys is a professor of international law at Ghent University, where he heads the Ghent Rolin-Jaequemyns International Law Institute (GRILI). He holds a doctoral degree from the university of Leuven (2009) and is a member of the Brussels bar. Tom Ruys’ research covers a variety of fields within the domain of public international law, including, the law on the use of force, the law of armed conflict, international dispute settlement, State responsibility, immunities and sanctions law. He is the author of ‘Armed Attack’ and Article 51 of the UN Charter (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and co-author of International Law: a European Perspective (Hart, 2018). His writings have appeared inter alia in the American Journal of International Law, the British Yearbook of International Law, the Chinese Journal of International Law and the European Journal of International Law. Tom Ruys is co-editor-in-chief of the Journal on the Use of Force and International Law (JUFIL, Routledge) and vice-director of the Military Law and Law of War Review (MLLWR, Edward Elgar). He is vice-president of the Belgian Society of International Law.