Wednesday 19 December 2018

Central Bank silent over plans for Irish gold in UK

Bank of England vaults in London hold almost €200m of Irish bars

Gold rush: No date given for removal of Irish reserves from Bank of England. Photo: Bloomberg
Gold rush: No date given for removal of Irish reserves from Bank of England. Photo: Bloomberg
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

IRELAND'S Central Bank has refused to say if it plans to move almost €200m worth of gold bars from the vaults of the Bank of England as a result of Brexit, insisting that any such move would be "commercially sensitive".

The gold reserves have been held by its UK counterpart for a number of years, and the Central Bank has traditionally been coy on the precise details of the reserves, and the terms of the arrangement it has with the Bank of England.

It refused to be drawn yesterday on whether the reserves would be removed from the Bank of England either before or after the Brexit deadline of next March.

"It is for the Central Bank to determine how Ireland's gold reserves ought to be managed," a spokeswoman told the Irish Independent.

"The Central Bank's portfolio is managed in line with approved parameters, which are kept under regular review and we report on key activities and developments in our annual report," she added.

"The Central Bank's transactions in gold are commercially sensitive and no further comment can be made at this time," she said.

The latest Central Bank annual report shows that it had €209.3m worth of gold and gold receivables on its books at the end of 2017.

It's believed that included €193.5m worth of fine gold held as gold bars with the Bank of England, and an additional amount of gold coins held at the Central Bank.

Ireland's gold reserves are among the lowest in Europe.

The Central Bank is believed to have close to six tonnes of gold reserves, or more than 211,000 ounces.

An ounce of gold was selling yesterday for $1,238.

It's also not known if the bank has lease arrangements in relation to its gold reserves.

Earlier this week, Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty also asked Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe what the Government intended doing with Ireland's gold reserves following Brexit.

However, Mr Donohoe noted the matter was the responsibility of the Central Bank.

The Central Bank's gold reserves represented just over 0.2pc of its total €90.3bn in assets held at the end of 2017.

A number of other countries hold gold reserves with the Bank of England.

Yesterday, news agency Reuters reported that two high-ranking Venezuelan officials are travelling to London intending to meet Bank of England representatives today over the repatriation of $550m (€482m) in gold held in the bank's vaults.

Venezuela, whose economy has been annihilated in recent years, wants to repatriate 14 tonnes of gold because it fears it could be caught up in international sanctions on the South American country.

The gold is a crucial asset for the struggling Opec nation, where hyperinflation is expected to reach a million per cent this year.

A broad economic collapse in Venezuela has fuelled an exodus of around three million people since 2015.

Irish Independent

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