Hard on the heels of a four-day expedited trial, Cockerill J has handed down judgment rejecting the attempt by the “Maduro Board” of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) to obtain the recognition in England of judgments of the Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal of Justice (STJ).

The STJ judgments had quashed the appointments made in respect of nearly US$2 billion of BCV assets in London by Interim President Guaidó, whom HMG has since 4 February 2019 recognised as the President of Venezuela. The UK Supreme Court in a landmark decision of 20 December 2021 had held that interim President Guaidó’s appointments were acts of the Venezuelan state which were required under the foreign act of state doctrine to be treated as valid and effective unless they had been quashed by a Venezuelan judgment which was entitled to recognition in accordance with English rules of private international law and English public policy. The Supreme Court remitted the case to the Commercial Court to determine whether any of the STJ judgments were in that context entitled to such recognition.

Cockerill J held that there was no rule of private international law upon which the Maduro Board could rely when none of Mr Guaidó or any of his appointees (to the “Guaidó Board” of the BCV or a Special Attorney General) had been parties to the proceedings before the STJ. The judgments were not therefore recognisable as judgments in personam, they did not fit within any existing rule in relation to judgments in rem, and there was no justification to expand those common law rules of recognition to cater for these particular decisions.

Since the Guaidó Board did not therefore need to rely upon any of its defences to recognition, these were dealt with only briefly. Nevertheless, the Judge went on to hold that recognition of the judgments was precluded by the “one voice” doctrine because the STJ regarded Mr Maduro rather than Mr Guaidó as the President. They therefore proceeded from the wrong starting point, so far as the UK was concerned. Furthermore, the absence of notification to the Guaidó interests or any opportunity for them to present argument to the STJ were flagrant breaches of the requirements of a fair trial.

Andrew Fulton QC and Mark Tushingham appeared for the Guaido Board (as they had in the prior phases before Commercial Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court).

Read the judgment: Maduro Board v Guaido Board [2022] EWHC 2040 (Comm)