Ukraine Gold Heist: Central Bank Yield Bricks Painted in Gold, Launches Criminal Probe

By @ibtimesau on
Gold bars and Swiss Franc banknotes are seen in this illustration picture taken at the GSA in Vienna November 13, 2014. Swiss voters looked set November 30, 2014, to clearly reject proposals that would have forced the central bank to buy up massive amount
Gold bars and Swiss Franc banknotes are seen in this illustration picture taken at the GSA in Vienna November 13, 2014. Swiss voters looked set November 30, 2014, to clearly reject proposals that would have forced the central bank to buy up massive amounts of gold and imposed strict limits on immigration, threatening close economic ties to the European Union. The "Save our Swiss gold" initiative, proposed by the right-wing Swiss People's Party out of concern that the central bank has sold too much of its gold in the past, looked set to be rejected by 78 percent of voters, according to an initial projection of the voting trend from Swiss broadcaster SRF. Picture taken November 13, 2014. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Authorities in Ukraine have launched a criminal probe to hunt the person responsible for the fake gold bars found at the central bank's storage in Odessa. The real gold bars that had been swapped for the lead bricks covered in golden paint had reportedly been missing for about five months now.

The Independent, citing Ukraine's Vesti newspaper, said it was a bank employee who had inserted the lead bars covered with golden paint to the storage unit. The person registered the fake bullion as gold, later on taking the real one. It is believed the unidentified suspect had already fled to Crimea, the area of contention between Ukraine and Russia.

The missing gold bars were believed to weigh to 11kg, and could be worth by almost £270,000, according to the state's Ministry of Internal Affairs. "The management of the central bank's branch in Odessa asked us to investigate fraud by their employee," Bloomberg quoted Volodymyr Shablienko, head of the Odessa police's press office. "We are conducting a forensic audit now."

Ukraine's national bank, spurred by the unfortunate gold heist, issued a pronouncement that Ukrainian banks will no longer buy over the counter the safe haven yellow metal gold as well as other precious metals. The central bank came up with the decision because of issues with authenticity in gold bars sold over the counter.

Bloomberg, citing First Deputy Central Bank Governor Oleksandr Pysaruk, reported Ukraine's regulator "took a principal decision that we will not buy gold anymore" from the population on Dec. 19. "We are making conclusions internally, including changing our procedures."

The gold heist reportedly happened between August and October. The criminal proceedings started on Dec 18.

On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund disclosed Ukraine reduced its gold bullion holdings for a second consecutive month in November. Ukraine had slashed by 2.488 tonnes its reserves, which now total only at 23.639 tonnes. The country said it needed to divest its gold holdings to optimise the composition of its international reserves.

Spot gold as of Tuesday jumped 0.7 percent to $1,182.40 an ounce by 0752 GMT.

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