In the beginning of 2013, the financial world was shocked this month by a demand from Germany’s Bundesbank to repatriate a large portion of its gold reserves held abroad. By 2020, Germany wants 50% of its total gold reserves back in Frankfurt – including 300 tons from the Federal Reserve. The Bundesbank’s announcement comes just three months after the Fed refused to submit to an audit of its holdings on Germany’s behalf. One cannot help but wonder if the refusal triggered the demand.
On Wednesday, the Bundesbank said that it would begin moving some of the reserves, the second-largest stock in the world after that of the United States. The goal is to house more than 50 percent of German gold in Bundesbank vaults in Frankfurt by 2020, up from a little less than a third today, the bank said.
Citing security reasons, Carl-Ludwig Thiele, a member of the Bundesbank, declined to say how the transfer would be accomplished or to estimate the cost. But he said the Bundesbank had plenty of experience moving large sums of money.
During the cold war, West Germany followed a policy of storing its gold as far west as possible in case of a Soviet invasion. While that worry is gone, there is still an argument for keeping some gold in financial centers like New York and London. It remains the one currency that is accepted everywhere. In the event of a currency crisis, the gold could be quickly deployed in financial markets to help restore confidence.
The New York Fed stores the German gold without cost on the theory that the presence of foreign gold supports the dollar’s status as the global reserve currency. A spokesman for the New York Fed declined to comment.
The Bundesbank announcement follows a public outcry last year after a clash in Parliament about whether all the bank’s gold was properly accounted for.
For the great many Germans who still rue the day they had to trade their marks for euros, there has been at least one consolation. If the common currency did not work out, Germany still had huge reserves of the hardest currency of all: gold.
Except, as many people learned for the first time last year, it did not — at least not in the country itself.
More than two-thirds of Germany’s gold reserves, valued at 137 billion euros, or $183 billion, is abroad, stored in vaults in New York, Paris and London.
The new policy will include the complete withdrawal of 374 tons of German gold stored at the Banque de France in Paris, about 11 percent of the total. Bundesbank officials were quick to note that the decision was not a reflection of French trustworthiness. Rather, because France and Germany now share the euro, there is no need for reserves as insurance against currency crises.
“The gold in Paris is in the best of hands,” Mr. Thiele said on Wednesday. “We are thankful to the Bank of France for storing it.”
Still, news of the planned transfer caused some clucking in financial circles after news leaked out on Tuesday. “Central banks don’t trust each other?” William H. Gross, a founder and managing director of the investment firm Pimco, asked on Twitter.
Mr. Thiele denied there was any mistrust. “We have no doubts about the integrity of other central banks,” he said. “We’re not aware of any irregularities.”
After World War II, vanquished Germany had no gold reserves. The Nazis had used most of it to finance the war, and much of what was left vanished mysteriously in the postwar chaos.
But as its economy recovered and Germany became the export powerhouse it is today, the country accepted gold as well as dollars from the central banks of its trading partners to cover the financial imbalance created by German trade surpluses.
German reserves peaked in 1968 at about 4,000 tons, several years before the collapse of the so-called Bretton Woods system of fixed international exchange rates, which was underpinned by gold reserves.
The end of Bretton Woods in 1973 eliminated some, though not all, of gold’s importance as a universal currency. The total has fallen to about 3,400 tons after Germany transferred some of its treasure to international institutions in which it participates, including the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The result? Germany only got 37 tons back (should be 50 tons which is a small amount already), and only 5 tons came from the US. The rest came from France. I don’t know about you but if I am a German I would be very angry.
According to the official release, there are two main repositories where the USA hold their gold: the vault of Fed Reserve in New York, and the vault at United States Bullion Depository, at Fort Knox Kentucky. Here are the claimed figures:
New York Federal Reserve Bank: 7000 tons
Owner: Federal Reserve (private company)
33 Liberty Street, Manhattan, New York City
Security of the vault: (according to Wikipedia as of 2014/2): The vault rests on Manhattan’s bedrock, 50 feet (15.24 m) below sea level. The weight of the vault and the gold inside would exceed the weight limits of almost any other foundation. The gold and other precious metals belong to 36 governments and is stored for free, but every time a bar is moved, a handling fee is applied. There are elaborate procedures for the handling of the gold, with three different teams monitoring every transaction.
Fort Knox: 4500 tons
Owner: US Dept of Treasury
Gold Vault Rd. and Bullion Blvd., Fort Knox, Kentucky
Security of the vault: (according to Wikipedia as of 2014/2):
Below the fortress-like structure lies the gold vault lined with granite walls and protected by a blast-proof door weighing 22 tons. Members of the Depository staff must dial separate combinations known only to them. Beyond the main vault door, smaller compartments provide further protection. According to a Mosler Safe Company brochure:
“The most famous, if not the largest, vault door order came from the Federal government in 1935 for the newly constructed gold depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Both the vault door and emergency door were 21-inches thick and made of the latest torch- and drill-resistant material. The main vault door weighed 20 tons and the vault casing was 25-inches thick.”
The facility is ringed with fences and is guarded by the United States Mint Police. The Depository premises are within the site of Fort Knox, a United States Army post, allowing the Army to provide additional protection. The Depository is protected by layers of physical security, alarms, video cameras, microphones, mine fields, barbed razor wire, electric fences, heavily armed guards, and the Army units based at Fort Knox, including unmarked Apache helicopter gunships of 8/229 Aviation based at Godman Army Airfield, the 16th Cavalry Regiment, the 19th Engineer Battalion, formerly training battalions of the United States Army Armor School, and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division, totaling 30,000 soldiers, with associated tanks, armored personnel carriers, attack helicopters, and artillery.
There is an escape tunnel from the lower level of the vault to be used by someone accidentally locked in.
For security reasons, no visitors are allowed inside the depository grounds. This policy has been enforced ever since the vault opened and the only exception was an inspection by members of the United States Congress and the news media on September 23, 1974 led by then Director of the United States Mint, Mary Brooks.
Don’t know about you but I think the security at Fort Knox is a lot stronger than the New York Fed. Also it is controlled by the elected government (if that means something), and protected by the military base. That would make sense, since after all the Fed is storing someone else’s gold, not the US (at least not entirely). And the Federal Reserve is private company owned by secretive (the member list is not disclosed) bank members.
Other vault locations:
320 W Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80204
West Point Mint
Its address is withheld by the National Park Service in its National Register listings
West Point, NY
San Francisco Mint
155 Hermann St., San Francisco, California
The top two are the famous vaults. The West Point one is curious, because the US government intentionally withheld its location in secrecy.
Naturally it makes you wonder, how much gold do they really have in there? See the below analysis:
The Great American Disaster: How Much Gold Remains In Fort Knox?
Well Germany’s central bank Bundesbank wanted to find out apparently last year, and shocked the world with the result.
See the below article by Peter Schiff. I am saving it here in case the article got deleted or moved:
Commodities / Gold and Silver 2014
Feb 06, 2014 – 01:57 PM GMT
Commodities Gold is the simplest of financial assets – you either own it or you don’t. Yet, at the same time, gold is also among the most private of assets. Once an individual locks his or her safe, that gold effectively disappears from the market at large. Unlike bank deposits or stocks, there is no way to tally the total amount of gold held by individual investors.
I like to call this concept “dark gold.” This is the real, broader gold market that exists below the surface-level transactions on the major exchanges. It’s impossible to know precisely how much dark gold exists around the world, but we do know that it is enough to render “official” gold holdings insignificant. That’s why I don’t buy and sell gold based on the decisions of John Paulson, or even J.P. Morgan Chase. It is a long-term investment that requires a deep understanding of the nature of money – and how little Wall Street’s media circus really matters.
Observing Dark Gold
Think of dark gold like dark matter. Dark matter is a mysterious substance that scientists hypothesize is an essential building block of our universe. All we know is that the universe is a certain size and that a huge amount of its mass is unobservable – this is what we’ve come to call dark matter.
We haven’t yet looked directly at dark matter. We can only observe phenomena that suggest there is a substance we aren’t seeing and can’t quite measure.
Likewise, dark gold is an essential building block of global financial stability. But the extremely private nature that makes it so valuable also makes it nearly impossible to directly observe.
But every now and then, we get a glimpse into the hidden undercurrents of dark gold. In the past year, the Federal Reserve slipped up in a big way and momentarily poked a hole that we can peek through to see what’s happening with some of the largest stores of dark gold in the world.
Gib Mir Mein Gold!
A year ago, the big news was that the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, would begin the process of repatriating a portion of its foreign gold reserves, including 300 metric tons stored at the New York Federal Reserve Bank.
The controversy really started in late 2012, when Germany simply wanted to audit its gold reserves at the Fed. They were denied this access, so the Germans switched their approach. If they weren’t allowed visitation with their holdings, they would instead demand full custody. In response, the Fed said it would oblige – within seven years!
As of the end of 2013, a Bundesbank spokesman reported that only 5 tons had been transported from New York to Germany so far, leaving the repatriation far behind schedule.
“But wait,” some might argue, “the repatriation process might be delayed, but we know the gold is there. Central bank holdings constitute the most visible gold in the world. These institutions report their holdings to the world regularly. The gold at the Fed isn’t dark gold at all!”
If this is a true and certain fact, then why was the Bundesbank denied a third-party audit of its gold in the Fed’s vaults? The closest we’ve seen was an internal audit by the US Treasury last year. Of course, the US government holds the sovereign privilege of answering to no one but itself, but that hardly makes for reassuring statistics on which to base one’s investments.
The truth is that we have no clue of the official gold reserves of any central bank in the world. All the Fed has to do to convince me otherwise is let an outside party into its vaults and count the gold. They’ve shown lots of paper; now show us the money!
It is very simple to count bars of gold where they exist. And it is clearly moral (and generally good business) to return assets that are held in trust when the creditor demands them. The Fed’s reluctance on both counts suggests that there is more to this story than meets the eye.
Fortunately, the veracity of the Fed’s claimed gold holdings has little bearing on the long-term precious metals investor. It’s the same with gold futures contracts and the daily spot price. These have no effect on whether or not you have a chest of real money buried in your backyard.
So why is it important that intelligent investors do keep some gold “buried” in their possession? Germany’s repatriation scandal begins to answer this question. The maneuverings of the New York Fed are like the patter and flourish of a magician – it distracts you from the real trick being played.
Or, in this case, where the most impressive piles of dark gold reside.
China Going For Gold
I’d bet that Western central banks are very pleased that the media has latched onto the dustup between Germany and the Fed. It means they are paying much less attention to the massive unreported stores of gold that many observers believe China has been accumulating, and which could have dire repercussions for the US dollar reserve system.
China last reported its gold reserves in 2009, clocking in at 1,054 metric tons. In the official rankings, this makes China’s reserves the sixth largest in the world. Germany comes in second with 3,387 metric tons (or so they hope), and all nations trail the United States’ claimed 8,133 metric tons.
Many speculate that China’s reserves have grown far beyond its official number in the past five years. However, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) is playing its cards close to its chest.
Last year, a deputy governor of the PBOC tried to convince the world that its reserves have not changed much since 2009. He explained that the Chinese government is keeping a limit on its gold reserves, because “if the Chinese government were to buy too much gold, gold prices would surge, a scenario that will hurt Chinese consumers.”
But a quick look at the numbers coming from the Chinese government shows that they just don’t add up.
China is the largest producer of gold in the world, pulling an estimated 437 metric tons of gold from the earth in 2013 – way more than runner-up Australia, with only 259 metric tons.
On top of this, China imported far more gold than any other country in the world in 2013. Via Hong Kong alone, China imported 1,158 metric tons of gold last year – a more than 107% increase from 2012.
This gold is not leaving the country in large quantities. Sure, China is the biggest exporter of gold jewelry to the Western world, but the value of these trinkets is negligible compared to the thousands of tons of bullion they are creating and importing.
Jim Rickards has estimated that China has probably added at least 1,000 metric tons to its reserves every year since 2010, meaning it has well over 4,000 metric tons today.
This is a conservative estimate. Wikileaks documents claim that China actually imported more than 2,000 metric tons from Hong Kong in 2011 alone.
If this is the case, when China does finally reveal how much gold it’s holding, it will leap from the sixth largest reserves in the world to the second, easily surpassing Germany in a single bound.
They might even give the US a run for its money.
Out From Under
It’s no longer a secret that China would prefer a “de-Americanized world.” Whether it’s the PBOC or average Chinese consumers hoarding all this dark gold, the effects will be the same when China decides it is fed up with the funny-money central banking system long dominated by the US dollar.
It certainly seems like the East is preparing for this endgame. Several new physical gold vaults have opened in Singapore in the past year, Moscow recently launched a spot gold exchange, and Dubai is planning a new spot gold contract for this year. Let’s not forget that the Hong Kong Exchange bought the London Metals Exchange in 2012, and there have been rumblings of physically moving it to Hong Kong.
If China were to initiate a gold-backed currency attractive to international trade partners, its government and citizens are poised to become extremely wealthy and powerful overnight. Americans, on the other hand…
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Some investors avoid the gold market because of its innate unofficial nature. But in a time when governments are in a race to tax anything that moves and inflate anything that prints, gold’s privacy becomes the difference between preserving wealth or facing destitution.
I challenge my readers to worry less about the short-term movements in the gold futures market, or even which central bank has what holdings. Understand that gold is a deep, global market that has witnessed the rise and fall of countless empires. Your decision is simple: you either own it, or you don’t.
Peter Schiffis CEO ofEuro Pacific Precious Metals, a gold and silver dealer selling reputable, well-known bullion coins and bars at competitive prices.
For the latest gold market news and analysis, sign up for Peter Schiff’s Gold Letter, a monthly newsletter featuring contributions from Peter Schiff, Casey Research, and other leading experts. Click here for your free subscription.
What do you think? There aren’t many reasons for Fed not to give Germany’s gold back to Germany. One reason came to mind: they want to hold on to them – when you hold someone’s valuable, you have the power isn’t it? They just can’t sue the Fed to take back to gold, right? And also if they drag their feet in returning the gold, they can do the same thing to others if they demand the gold back also. This all make sense and does not invalidate the claim that the Fed still have the gold.
But why melt the gold and recast new ones? Doesn’t that create extra cost? Isn’t it easier to just take the gold bar from vault, and put them on the ship? For security concern, isn’t it more dangerous to get the gold from the vault, cast it somewhere, and then transport it? Or one can say that they don’t even want to open their vault, but buy the gold from open market and mint it for Germany — all sounds dandy and good but hold on: isn’t it a lot more expensive than just take the gold from the vault? There can only be one logical answer: the Fed don’t have the gold that they claim to have. At least not for quantity that the Germans want, so they cannot just give them German gold bars in the first shipment, and then switch to Fed newly cast gold bars, as this would expose this lack of gold fact.
As there has not been an audit of Fort Knox since the 1950′s, nor a bar list made public since this German gold was claimed to have been deposited with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York back in the 1950s, this is a can of worms that has already been opened and any “answer” will only lead to more questions.
So why exactly would the gold need to be recast before sending it back?
Never mind the obvious question that we’ve already asked. Why will it take up to eight years to send the Germans their gold?
You see, gold has a “fingerprint.” Once it is refined down to 99.999 percent pure, the fingerprint is erased. For example, the “coin melt” that came from the 1934 confiscation has a fingerprint of 90 percent purity. The gold the Soviet Union was selling back in 1990 was 89 percent pure and had the czar’s stamp on it, which was a dead giveaway that they were out of gold (money). They collapsed within six months and it was foretold by this “fingerprinted gold.”
Keeping it under the lid
This is scary. Fed holds majority of the gold reserve for most of the world’s central banks. I am sure their top brass are panicking and would ask very direct questions to Fed to get their gold back, while not to alarm the public about this (and hence suppressing the news), and try to deal this with the US under the table. Well good luck to them. Bottom line is no one wants to cause a bank run, and the major governments will continue to keep a lid on this in concert. But fact is that one cannot print gold. Period. Physical gold has been the primary instrument to preserve monetary value and will probably continue to do so beyond symbolic value.
In the mean time, I encourage you to at least check whether you can buy gold coins, physical ones, in your nearest dealer. Last time I check in a local metal shop, there was a huge back log of physical gold order demand, and the mint cannot keep up of producing. There just isn’t much physical gold available.
Response from the German Central Bank Bundesbank
On January 16, 2013 Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, said it will ship back home all 374 tonnes it had stored with the Banque de France in Paris, as well as 300 tonnes held in Manhattan by the US Federal Reserve, by 2020.
Fast forward a year and Buba, as the Federal Bank of Germany is affectionately (or maybe not) known, has only managed to bring home a paltry 37 tonnes of gold.
And a mere 5 tonnes of that came from the US, the rest from Paris. The US Fed holds 45% of the total 3,396 tonnes German gold.
Needless to say this prompted renewed questions whether Germany’s gold still exists in those Manhattan vaults or if it has been melted down, leased or even sold.
At the time of the original Bundesbank announcement, there were rumours that Germany wanted their gold back because the Fed refused German officials a viewing of the bullion a couple of months earlier.
German gold is also held at The Bank of England which stores 13% in London, while the Bank of France in Paris has 11% in total and the remainder is held at the Bundesbank’s headquarters in Frankfurt.
In November 2011, Venezuela repatriated some 180 tonnes of gold held in vaults in London and elsewhere to store it with the Caracas central bank under orders from late President Hugo Chavez.
In an extensive interview with German business publication Handelblatt, executive board member Carl-Ludwig Thiele, tries to lay to rest all the rumours about the program which was designed as a “trust-building” measure among the German people, noted below.
Interview with Carl-Ludwig Thiele, Member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank, published in Handelsblatt on 19 February 2014
Translation and source: Deutsche Bundesbank
Interview conducted by Norbert Häring and Jens Münchrath.
Mr Thiele, do you consider yourself a kind of psychotherapist of the German soul?
No, why should I?
Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann described the partial transfer of German gold from New York as a trust-building measure in Germany.You are the one responsible for organising this major logistical undertaking.
Indeed, we are inspiring trust by storing half of the 3,400 tonnes of gold in Frankfurt by 2020. Building trust also means being transparent. We were the first central bank to publish details of our storage facilities, including the respective quantities of gold stored there.
Is there a scenario in which gold could begin to be used in monetary policy?
A highly theoretical scenario would involve extreme turmoil on the foreign exchange markets. Germany safeguards its solvency through reserve assets. In addition to foreign currency, our reserve assets include gold reserves. This gold could be pledged or exchanged directly for foreign currency. That is also why we have left the other half of our gold reserves in New York and London. Although we thankfully do not envisage such a crisis scenario, central banks are designed for the long term.
In October 2012, you promised the German Bundestag that you would transfer a total of 150 tonnes of gold from New York to Frankfurt by 2015.In January 2013, you extended the time frame to 2020 and increased the amount to 300 tonnes. What time frame are you looking at now?
The plans are not contradictory. We specified our initial target in October 2012. In January 2013, we then presented a new gold storage plan and specified a new target that is considerably higher than the first. Instead of only 150 tonnes, we are now transferring 300 tonnes of gold from New York to Germany.
So both targets still apply?
We now consider ourselves bound to the new gold storage plan. But the three years have not yet passed. We shall wait and see. We are on the right track in any case.
But the members of the German Bundestag have acted on the assumption of the initial promise.The second has got a more long-term oriented time frame. Was your initial promise overly ambitious? In the first year, you only returned five tonnes from the USA.
It is not a question of “returning”. The gold is being transferred to Germany for the first time. Until 1998, only 2% of our gold, or thereabouts, was stored in Germany. In the first year, we transported five tonnes from New York. This year, we will transfer 30 to 50 tonnes, or perhaps even more, from New York to Frankfurt. And there is still next year to come.
Does that mean that the target of 150 tonnes is still attainable?
Since we are in the midst of an ongoing process, I would like you to ask me the question again in two years’ time. In any case, we will store half of the German gold reserves in Germany by 2020 at the latest.
Why are you content with such a low target for this year?Is the programme still experiencing teething problems in its second year?
No, it is not. We have planned the timing of the transfers in such a way as to ensure that 300 tonnes are transferred from New York to Germany by 2020 at the latest.
There are these rumours that either the gold in New York is no longer there or you do not have unrestricted access to it.Why have you not called in auditors or other externals to oversee the transfers in response to such rumours?
It astounds me that Handelsblatt pays any attention to such absurd rumours. I was in New York myself in June 2012 with the colleagues responsible for managing the gold reserves and saw for myself how our money is stored in the vault there. The Americans have never stonewalled or hindered us in any way. On the contrary, their cooperation has been most constructive in every respect. Our internal audit team was present last year during the on-site removal of gold bars and closely monitored everything. The smelting process is also being monitored by independent experts.
Does this also apply to opportunities to inspect the stocks?You said a year ago that discussions on the matter with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York were making good progress.
That is correct. We have enjoyed an excellent relationship of trust with the New York Fed for many decades. As regards the details of the contracts, however, we are bound by confidentiality which we cannot unilaterally break. From my visit to New York, I can tell you that a number of bars selected by us were removed, inspected and reweighed even while I was there. The inspections conducted by our internal audit team, during which an external auditor was also present, were also completed to our utmost satisfaction.
Was an external auditor present during your visit to the New York Fed gold storage facility in June 2012?
No, not during my visit. However, an external auditor was present for part of the time during the internal audit team’s inspection of stocks.
Did the gold from New York have to be melted down immediately?
The gold was removed from the vault in the presence of the internal audit team and transported to Europe. Only once the gold had arrived in Europe was it melted down and brought to the current bar standard. Some of the bars in our stocks in New York were produced before the Second World War. It was confirmed after the melting process, as anticipated, that these bars were absolutely fine.
The Federal Court of Auditors (FCA) sparked the debate by calling for an inspection of Germany’s gold holdings abroad.When you announced in October 2012 that part of the holdings were to be transferred to Germany, the FCA responded that this was a first step, but not a comprehensive procedure. Is the FCA now satisfied?
The FCA never demanded that the Bundesbank transfer gold to Germany. It was more concerned with extending its rights with regard to inspecting gold reserves abroad. The Bundesbank’s internal audit department now has rights it never used to have. The Budget Committee has acknowledged the FCA’s report, which concludes this discussion. Incidentally, the FCA examined the Bundesbank’s annual accounts for 2012 and found no irregularities.
The FCA claims it has no knowledge of newly agreed audit rights.
The FCA has access to all information at all times. I am sure the President of the FCA will be able to confirm this for you.
If the intention was to build trust, would it not have been better to postpone the smelting processso that you would have been able to present sceptics with the original bars?
Prior to transportation, the original gold bars were handed over to us in New York. Our internal audit team checked the numbers of the bars there and then against its own lists. The very same gold arrived at the European gold smelters that we had commissioned. This ought to demonstrate to everyone that such conspiracy theories are completely unfounded.
Calling in external auditors or critics was not an option?
The Bundesbank’s internal audit department is involved in the process from start to finish. Independent experts were present during the smelting process.
Are there any advantages for the Americans in storing gold for other nations?After all, they are protecting our reserves free of charge.
To answer this question, you need to look at the historical context. As you may know, gold reserves were established during the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate system. Given the threat from the East at the time, it seemed the safest option was to store German gold as far west as possible. The gold was therefore stored in New York from the outset.
So the Americans are taking on high storage costs for nothing in return?
No, why high storage costs? The gold has been stored there for decades. The storage rooms already exist.
Security guards cost money…
It is not just our gold that they protect, but also that of other central banks. But that is a matter for the New York Fed.
Just over a year ago, you were asked whether storing gold with the victors of the Second World War was not perhaps an echo of the old Bonn Republic when Germany was not yet a fully sovereign state.Back then, your answer was rather vague. What is your answer today?
To my knowledge, gold was stored in New York, London and Paris mainly for security policy reasons. We transferred 930 tonnes of gold from London more than ten years ago without experiencing any difficulties with the Bank of England or upsetting German-British relations. The same applies to the Banque de France and the New York Fed.