Opposition leader Juan Guaido's rival Venezuelan government said Friday it was a step closer to taking control of the oil-rich country's gold reserves, after the latest judgment by a UK court.

High Court judge Sara Cockerill ruled against President Nicolas Maduro's regime in a technical ruling concerning appointments made to the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) by Guaido.

She found that rulings by Venezuela's supreme court, blocking the appointments, could not be recognised in English law.

Cockerill cited "clear evidence" that the Supreme Tribunal of Justice had been stacked with Maduro-supporting judges, although she also found that the evidence was not conclusive.

"This is an unfortunate ruling that ultimately rests on a narrow issue of law about the recognition of foreign judgments," said Sarosh Zaiwalla of the law firm Zaiwalla and Co, representing the Maduro-backed BCV.

"The BCV is considering an appeal," he added.

But in a statement, Guaido expressed gratitude for Britain's "honest and transparent judicial process", contrasting it with the Maduro government's focus on "power and money".

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido AFP / CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ

"This decision represents another step in the process of protecting Venezuela's international gold reserves and preserving them for the Venezuelan people and their future," he said.

The ultimate thrust of the case remains to be decided, after the UK Supreme Court last year ruled that the dispute should be heard again by the lower Commercial Court in London.

Cockerill's ruling put the value of the 31 tonnes of Venezuelan gold deposited with the Bank of England at about $1.95 billion. Maduro wants to recover the gold.

But access has so far been denied as Britain, in line with other countries including the United States, acknowledges Guaido as interim president.

UK judges have already ruled that they are obliged to follow the British government's decision on which government to recognise but had left open the legal point decided on Friday.

Further hearings are expected later this year before the case as a whole can be decided.

The United States and Venezuela severed diplomatic ties in 2019 after Maduro was re-elected the year before to a second term in a ballot boycotted by the opposition.

In a tentative sign of a potential warming of relations, however, Washington sent a high-level delegation to energy-rich Venezuela in March, just days after Russia invaded Ukraine.