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Germany’s gold reserve inspection could spark other central bank gold audits

The German central bank’s decision to audit a portion of its gold holdings held in U.S. Federal Reserve vaults could have implications for gold prices and precious metals investing.

Growing demands from German officials and politicians to formally check German gold reserves now held in the United States have sparked media reports that the gold reserves of several Western nations are believed to be smaller than previously thought.

In an article published Tuesday in Coin Week, Louis Golino suggests, “If these reports are accurate, they have important implications for the future price of gold, and therefore for precious metals investors.”

“First, they suggest that much less mined gold exists than previously believed. Second, this is especially significant to the so-called manipulation thesis, which hold that governments act to surpress the price of gold,” Golino noted.

“If governments hold less gold than we thought they did, then their ability to affect the price will also be greatly diminished,” he advised.

Germany is believed to have 3,396 tons of gold reserves, the second-largest gold reserves in the world after the United States. German politicians, as well as Germany’s federal Court of Auditors, have requested that the Bundesbank, Germany’s equivalent of the Federal Reserve, check up on Germany’s gold reserves, the majority of which are in storage in offshore banks.

Initially, the Bundesbank rejected the demand, arguing, “The scope of the checks that Bundesrechningshof [the federal court of auditors] wants does not correspond to the usual practices among central banks. …There are no doubts about the integrity and the reputation of these foreign depositories

Last week, a report by Germany’s Federal Auditors Office was made public by the media including the Associated Press. The document observed Germany’s gold bars “have never been physically checked by the Bundesbank itself or other independent auditors.” Instead, it relies on “written confirmations by the storage sites.”

Some two-thirds of Germany’s gold reserves, worth $190 billion, are being kept in the vaults of the U.S. Federal Reserve (estimated at 66%), the Bank of France (8%) and the Bank of England (21%) since post-World War II, when Germany was concerned about a possible land war with the former Soviet Bloc.

Apart from the cost of transporting the gold back to Frankfurt, Bundesbank is also concerned “the symbolic effect of Germany repatriating its gold reserves might unsettle the nervous financial markets, who could see it as a sign of an impending collapse of the Euro,” Der Spiegel suggested in a May article.

However, Der Spiegel now reports that the Bundesbank has agreed to check up on the reserves. The Bundesbank will make arrangements to repatriate some of the country’s gold reserves and test the gold for purity. The Bundesbank has reportedly agreed to ship 150 tons of gold currently stored at the New York Federal Reserves to Germany over a three-year period. German newspaper Bild reports 50 tons of gold per year will be returned to Germany, where it will be melted down entirely to test the overall purity before being re-cast into standard gold bars.

When asked by CNBC to comment on the Bundesbank’s request, the Fed would not comment on the record about how it will handle the request to inspect the gold. However, CNBC quoted an anonymous source who indicated “they would likely work out a deal with the Germans permitting some sort of inspection.”

The U.S. based Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee or GATA has long claimed collusion exists among financial institutions, and that central banks do not actually possess the amount of gold they claim to have.

John Embry, chief investment strategist of Sprott Asset Management, has also long maintained “I firmly believe that if you look at all of the Western central banks, and the gold they allegedly own, I believe a significant portion of that is not in their vaults.”

“They can say all they want,” he told King World News on Monday, “but in the end, the truth will be revealed by the lack of physical gold in the market as they run out of enough gold to keep the price under control.”

iPad Version – Picture: Gold and silver bars are pictured in front of a safe door at the Austrian Gold and Silver Separating Plant ‘Oegussa’ : Lisi Niesner / Reuters

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