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 the Germans have 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 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.
The rather flimsy reasons supplied by German officials to Die Welt am Sondag why only 5 tonnes have been repatriated from America, won’t satisfy the conspiracy theorists who maintain there is no gold in US vaults:
“The Bundesbank explained by saying that the transport from Paris were simpler and therefore were able to start up quickly.”
Another explanation was that the gold held by the Fed on the Bundesbank’s behalf in the US were non-standard size and shape:
“The bullion stored in Paris possesses the elongated shape with beveled edges of the “London Good Delivery” standard. The bars in the basement of the Fed on the other hand have a previously common form. They will need to be remelted. And the capacity of smelters are just limited.”
The inability to move the bullion also occurred despite Germany enlisting the help of the Bank of International Settlements, the central bank of central banks, which is in the business of leasing hundreds of tonnes of bullion each year.
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.
At the time of the initial announcement Bill Gross of Pimco, the world’s largest money manager, summed up the situation perfectly in a tweet, which today appears even more prescient:
@PIMCO Gross: Report claims Germany moving gold from NY/Paris back to Frankfurt. Central banks don’t trust each other?
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.