CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s chief prosecutor on Friday announced arrest warrants for members of the central bank’s ad hoc board of directors, appointed by opposition leader Juan Guaido, for several crimes, including treason.
The announcement from Chief Prosecutor Tarek Saab came a day after a London court recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president, as part of a legal dispute over whether Guaido or President Nicolas Maduro should control $1 billion of the country’s gold stored in London.
Saab said the orders of apprehension were requested for the crimes of treason, usurpation of functions and association to commit crimes. He added that all those involved lived outside the country, and did not rule out international actions to carry out the arrests.
Apart from Ricardo Villasmil, president of the ad hoc board, the prosecutor also included Guaido’s representative in London, Vanessa Neumann, as well as three other collaborators of the opposition leader.
Saab alleged that Guaido and his collaborators seek to “strip” Venezuela of its wealth in the legal battle over Venezuela’s gold reserves. The opposition, meanwhile, says Maduro wants gold to pay his allies.
Over the past two years, Maduro’s government has removed some 30 tonnes of gold from its reserves in Venezuela to sell abroad for much-needed hard currency.
A member of Guaido’s legal team said they now expect the court to determine whether Guaido has the authority to represent Venezuela’s central bank in another legal case to decide control over the gold itself.
Guaido, the National Assembly speaker who was recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate president by dozens of Western countries after invoking the constitution to assume the role in January 2019, has not succeeded in ousting Maduro, accused of rigging his 2018 re-election.
Maduro, who has overseen an economic collapse in the once-prosperous OPEC nation and is accused of corruption and human rights violations, calls Guaido a U.S. puppet.
Reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Writing by Sarah Kinosian; Editing by Matthew Lewis