Tag Archives: BoE

Dutch Central Bank Refuses To Publish Gold Bar List For Dubious Reasons

My hunt for the gold bar list of the Dutch official gold reserves started in 2015. On September 26 of that year I visited a conference in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, called Reinvent Money. One of the speakers was Jacob De Haan from the Dutch central bank (DNB) Economics and Research Division – you can watch his presentation by clicking here.

In his presentation De Haan repeatedly talked about the importance of transparency in central banking. These statements raised my eyebrows, as I submitted a FOIA request at DNB in 2013 to ask for all correspondence between DNB and other central banks in the past 45 years with respect to its monetary gold, which was not honored. From my experience DNB was anything but transparent.

De Haan DNB 2015
Slide  is from Jacob De Haan (DNB) at the Reinvent Money conference September 26, 2015. Red frame added by me.

After the presentation I approached De Haan and asked him, if transparency is so important to DNB, why has it never published its gold bar list? An act of transparency that could be accomplished within minutes. De Haan offered me he would look into that. He gave me his email address and we agreed to stay in touch. 

Jan de Haan dnb
September 26, 2015, at the Reinvent Money conference. On the left is Jacob De Haan, on the right in the orange sweater is me.

The next day I send De Haan an extensive email explicating my request at DNB to publish the gold bar list of the Dutch gold in excel sheet format. I wrote him it wouldn’t take DNB any effort, as I assumed the bar list was readily available.

De Haan never replied to my email, so I called his office in December 2015 to ask what the status was of my request. De Haan’s secretary answered my inquiry was not rejected but still being processed.

Weeks passed but I didn’t get any reply from De Haan.

On February 24, 2016, I decided to call DNB’s press department to ask about my inquiry. DNB’s spokesman, Martijn Pols, told me over the phone the subject was still being discussed internally, he even confirmed De Haan was involved in the decision making. DNB was considering releasing the document while carefully weighing al pros and cons, he said.

In the conversation Pols stated DNB was aware the German central bank (the Deutsche Bundesbank) released a bar list in October 2015 and there was a wish in Amsterdam to mutually harmonize this policy. I added that if DNB would go ahead with the publication their action would only be credible if the Dutch bar list would be complete (disclosing refinery brands, refinery bar numbers and year of manufacturing), in contrast to the incomplete list the Germans had published. Pols was aware of the format the Germans had chosen and took note of my comment. An ensuing question from my side what was holding back DNB in releasing the list could not be clearly answered.

Months passed without any news from DNB. On August 8, 2016 I decided to call Pols again for a status update. He said he would reply over email. A few days later I received an email from DNB Head of Commutations J.W. Stal.

His email to me, translated from Dutch to English, reads:

Dear Mr Jansen,

…. We can share the following information with respect to our gold reserves.

DNB is transparent about the amount (weight) and the value of our gold assets. This information can be found in our annual reports. Thereby, several media have visited the gold vault and video recordings have also been made. However, we do not intend to publish a gold bar list. This serves no additional monetary purpose to our aforementioned transparency policy, however it would incur administrative costs

If you have any further question please contacts us.

Kind regards,

J.W. Stal

Of course, in this day and age any gold bar list from a central banks should be readily available in excel sheet format, and releasing a sheet would not incur any administrative costs.

My response to Stal translated:

Dear Mr Stal,

If the sole reason not to publish the gold bar list is that such an action would incur administrative costs I must conclude DNB doesn’t have the list readily available. Or is my conclusion erroneous? Does DNB have a complete gold bar list readily available or not?

If not, this is worrying because the gold bar list forms one of the most important checks on the existence of the Dutch official gold reserves, which provide essential stability to our economy.

Is the list in your possession or not?

Kind regards,

Koos Jansen

Stal replied:

Dear Mr Jansen,

In response to your email of August 11, 2016, to De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), we can inform you as follows on our gold reserves and the related gold bar list. DNB has internal gold bar lists, however the conversion of internal lists to documents for publication would create too many administrative burdens.

We maintain our previous email, in which we stated publishing a gold bar list serves no monetary purpose other than transparency. And as previously noted, there are other ways for DNB to transparently communicate about our gold stocks.

We trust to have informed you sufficiently.

Kind regards,

J.W. Stal 

If DNB has its gold bar list properly (digitally) archived there should be no administrative cost whatsoever for publication. The argument presented by Stal makes absolutely no sense to me. If one owns over 600 tonnes of gold, why not have the physical assets accurately inventoried? 

What could possibly be the problem to release the bar list of the Dutch gold located in Amsterdam, New York, Ottawa and London?


I would like to remind you that DNB is the only Western central bank that in recent years has successfully repatriated a significant amount of gold (122.5 tonnes) from the Federal Reserve Bank Of New York through a covertly executed operation. This underlines DNB is fully aware of the importance of its gold reserves in our current fragile financial climate. I think DNB does have the bar list readily available, but it chooses not to publish it for political reasons – think, tensions between its custodians in New York and London.

DNB claims to be transparent but in reality it’s not.

If you click this link you can see the most recent video recording made inside the DNB vault at the Frederiksplein in Amsterdam on April 26, 2016. The gold you see in the video aggregates to 189.9 tonnes and includes the 122.5 tonnes repatriated from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in November 2014. Note, the gold at the Frederiksplein has been relocated to a different compartment inside the vault room after November 2014, due to the increased volume by the repatriation.

elianne DNB gold
Courtesy RTLZ. DNB vault room, Frederiksplein in Amsterdam on April 26, 2016.

A few noteworthy comments from the DNB employee in the video:

Gold is the ultimate insurance and anchor in monetary systems.

If there will ever be any financial instability we can use the gold to build a new monetary system and offer trust to the public.

Bank Of England Custodian Gold Drops 351t

The Bank Of England (BOE) has recently released its annual report in which it’s disclosed the gold held in custody for a range of customers was 5,134 metric tonnes on February 28, 2015, down 351 tonnes (6 %) form the previous year. 

The data on gold in custody at the BOE is disclosed in billions of Great British Pounds. The annual report states the BOE’s custodian gold was worth £130 billion on February 28, 2015. Because the data is disclosed in round numbers the derived tonnage is an estimate.

BOE custodian gold
Exhibit 1.

The BOE isn’t a member of the LBMA, but members of the LBMA hold gold in custody accounts with the BOE – next to foreign central banks and international financial institutions.

Let’s throw in some more numbers that are publicly available to get a bette handle on gold stored in London and to see if we can figure out how much gold is left in London:

Since January 2015 the LBMA website claims the total gold stored in London is 7,500 tonnes of which three quarters is stored at the BOE vaults. We’ll use 5,625 tonnes as an estimate for gold held in custody at the BOE on February 28, 2015.

From the Internet Archive it can be seen the same website claimed in April 2014 there was 9,000 tonnes in London of which two thirds was stored at the BOE. We’ll use 6,000 tonnes as an estimate for gold held in custody at the BOE in custody on February 28, 2014.

Gold from the GLD ETF is also stored in the LBMA system, at an HSBC vault located within the M25 London Orbital Ringway (typically LBMA vaults are within M25 to limit transportation and security costs), but this is all outside the BOE vaults.

The BOE could be a subcustodian for HSBC, as can be read in the GLD prospectus:

Gold bars may be held by one or more subcustodians appointed by the Custodian [HSBC], or employed by the subcustodians appointed by the Custodian, until it is transported to the Custodian’s London vault premises [the HSBC vault].

However, it’s likely in February there was nil GLD gold held by a subcustodian. From the prospectus:

As at March 31, 2015, the Custodian [HSBC] held 23,702,920 ounces of gold on behalf of the Trust [GLD] in its vault, 100% of which is allocated gold in the form of London Good Delivery gold bars with a market value of $28,135,365,641 (cost — $29,341,051,196) based on the LBMA Gold Price PM on March 31, 2015. Subcustodians held nil ounces of gold in their vaults on behalf of the Trust. 

GLD was holding 771 tonnes on February 28, 2015, and 804 tonnes on February, 28, 2014.

Next is an overview of the estimates we just talked about:

LBMA system estimates Feb 2015
Exhibit 2.
  • ‘tonnes at BOE’ is the data from the BOE annual reports
  • ‘LBMA’ is the data from the LBMA website
  • ‘LBMA gold at BOE’ is derived from the data from the LBMA website
  • ‘LBMA gold outside BOE’ is ‘LBMA’ minus ‘LBMA gold at BOE’
  • ‘LBMA gold outside BOE minus GLD’ is exactly what is says it is

What can be seen is that ‘tonnes at the BOE’ and ‘LBMA gold at BOE’ roughly corresponds. It can be that, ‘LBMA gold at the BOE’ includes foreign central bank gold, or put differently; foreign central bank gold at the BOE is maybe counted as gold in the LBMA system. I will further investigate this possibility.

It’s hard to say how much gold foreign central banks store at the BOE, but according to my estimates it is at least 2,000 tonnes – based on data from the central bank of the Netherlands (123t), Austria (230t), Germany (441t), Australia (80t), Switzerland (208t), Sweden (61t), Finland (25t), Belgium (±200t) and India (±250t) in addition to the IMF (±450t).

Let us assume foreign central banks store 3,000 tonnes at the BOE. This means the floating supply of London Good Delivery bars at the BOE is:

5,134 (annual report) – 3,000 (foreign central banks) = 2,134 tonnes

‘LBMA gold outside BOE minus GLD’ (exhibit 2) = 1,104 tonnes

Summed up, there is an estimated 3,238 tonnes of floating supply in London. This excludes GLD and gold stored by foreign central banks at the BOE.

LBMA estimates Feb 2015
Exhibit 3.

This post will be continued.

Belgium Denies To Repatriate Gold From The UK

Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad was reporting on Wednesday Belgium will repatriate 200 tonnes of gold from the Bank Of England (BOE). De Tijd is now stating the opposite, quoting the governor of the Belgian Central Bank (NBB) Luc Coene:

The repatriation from the UK is not true…. There are other and more effective ways to verify if the gold in London is really ours. We have an audit committee that inspects the Belgian gold in the UK regularly…. Repatriating would be more expansive with transport, storage and security costs.

One thing is for sure, the Belgians are nervous about their gold (227 tonnes) held abroad. In December 2014 the Luc Coene admitted he was investigating to repatriate all Belgian gold reserves, on TV-network VTM Nieuws:

Luc Coene: If one feels that in surrounding countries these decisions are taken, one knows that this question will be asked to us as well. We’re pro-active investigating all the elements, so when the question will be asked, we can answer it.

The practical problem is the transport of the gold, with all the risk that come with it. Second, if we repatriate we need to setup a large security system in Belgium. Though currently this is done by certain central banks that are specialized in this.

Did the investigation point out the transport and storage costs would be too high? Currently the storage fee NBB pays to its custodians (BOE, BIS, Bank of Canada) is €250,000 a year. Is Belgium not repatriating because of the costs or because it got obstructed by other authorities?

Last week I reported about the mystery regarding the fine gold tonnage claimed to have been repatriated by the Netherlands and Germany in 2014 from New York (208 tonnes), and the drop in total foreign gold deposits disclosed by the Federal Reserve Bank Of New York (FRBNY) in 2014 (177 tonnes). The mystery – that adds to a long list of oddities – couldn’t be clarified to me by the central bank of the Netherlands, Germany or US. Additionally, I called and emailed to the central bank of the Ukraine to ask whether they had deposited any gold in New York in 2014 that could help explain the mysterious 31 tonnes gap. Until now, all four central banks were reluctant to say anything that could restore their common credibility, but perhaps one will in the future – still waiting on email reply from the central bank of the Ukraine.

There is enough evidence European countries, among others, are nervous about the security of their official gold reserves stored abroad – who wouldn’t be if unprecedented amounts of physical gold were moving to Asia while Western consultancy firms are clearly underreporting this trend. Accidentally there are more and more stories popping up that might be a backwash from the tension between the big custodians (FRBNY, BOE) and the gold owners.

This story about Belgium repatriating 200 tonnes from the UK, which was officially denied after a few hours by the NBB, makes the story of the Netherlands that bought 10 tonnes last December, which was also officially denied after a few hours, more suspicious. I hate to speculate, though our central banks and the impossibility of the numbers they put out force me to speculate – apparently there is no other option.  

The fact the 31 tonnes gap is not being elucidated by the central banks in concert might signal these central banks have something to hide. If the custodians have something to hide, we can ask ourselves; did Belgium apply for withdrawing 200 tonnes of gold from the UK, but shortly after got a telephone call this request was not part of the range of possibilities? Or will the Belgians repatriate, but for security reasons don’t like the global press to know?

UPDATE 5 PM GMT+1: Press release from the NBB:

In accordance with the Organic Law and the Statute of the National Bank the official foreign reserves of the Belgian State, including the gold reserves, are held and managed by the NBB.

The official gold reserves account for 227 tonnes, most of which is stored at the Bank of England, and the remainder at the Bank of Canada and the Bank for International Settlements.

The National Bank does not intend to repatriate these reserves, which are regularly audited.

The National Bank will report any movement regarding these gold reserves as appropriate.

Guest Post: Australia Audits Gold Reserves At BOE

Written by Bullion Baron:

Two years ago the news was publicly broken on the BullionBaron.com website that 99.9% of Australia’s Gold reserves are stored at the Bank of England in the United Kingdom. Attempts by another blogger, interested in the whereabouts of Australia’s Gold, had been rejected by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) only several months earlier, “The Bank does not publish the location of its gold reserves.”

Bank of England Vault
Bank of England gold vault

Decisions like this don’t happen in a black hole. Something changed the RBA’s mind, between August 2012 and December 2012, on making the location of Australia’s Gold reserves public.

From my observation, the RBA tends to follow the lead of other Central Banks, so the decision to release information on the location of Australia’s Gold may have been a result of Germany’s Central Bank (Deutsche Bundesbank) deciding to do so in October 2012 (interview containing the information originally released is no longer published on the site, but available via Web Archive). Only a month later, in November 2012, the Austrian Central Bank released the location of their Gold reserves, revealing that 80% resided in the UK, 3% in Switzerland and 17% in Austria. Cue the RBA feeling comfortable to release the location details of Australia’s Gold around 1 month later.

A recent experience of mine with the RBA further highlighted their desire to follow in the footsteps of other Central Banks rather than to think for themselves. A Freedom Of Information (FOI) request I made for the Gold bar list was initially rejected, but after lodging an appeal with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OIAC), highlighting that the United States published a list of their Gold bars details (sans the serial number), the RBA decided to follow suit (RBA Gold Bar Details).

Earlier this year I spotted a line in the RBA’s 2014 Annual Report indicating an audit had been performed (not something I have seen mentioned in previous years):

Gold holdings at the end of June 2014 were around 80 tonnes, unchanged from the previous year. Gold prices rose by 9 per cent in Australian dollar terms in 2013/14, increasing the value of the Reserve Bank’s holdings of gold by around $0.3 billion to $3.6 billion. Activity in the gold lending market remained subdued, with the Bank having only 1 tonne of gold on loan during the year. Income earned on that loan amounted to $0.2 million. During the year in review, the Bank audited its gold holdings, including that portion held in safe custody at the Bank of England.

A question posed by email to the RBA earlier in the year suggested that RBA officials had performed the audit themselves. I decided to lodge another FOI request.

“I request that a copy of the following documents be provided to me: All documents pertaining to the audit of the RBA’s gold holdings performed during the 2013/14 financial year, as was specified in the ‘Operations in Financial Markets’ section of the Reserve Bank of Australia Annual Report 2014 (“During the year in review, the Bank audited its gold holdings”).”

Two months later (decision on the documents was delayed due to consultation with the Bank of England) I received the following list of documents that would be provided (on payment of fees, which were reduced from an original quote due to the small number of documents that could be released):

RBA Gold Audit Documents

And today the documents arrived. Here’s what we know…

In February 2013, the Assistant Governor (Financial Markets) requested the Audit Department to include in its audit program a review of the Bank’s gold holdings at the Bank of England (BoE). The Chief Representative in EU approached the BoE to facilitate this review and in late May 2013 initial planning discussions were held with BoE staff with tentative agreement that the review would take place in September 2013.

The audit included:

  • An on-site physical verification on September 23, 2013, which will take 4-5 days to complete, assuming two RBA auditors are involved given the proposed scope.
  • Inspecting a sample of RBA Gold bars (list to be provided in advance), including checking the details of these bars against the Bank’s inventory list and weighing of the bars by BoE staff using their equipment.
  • Randomly selecting additional Gold bars from the inventory list and observing these bars being located and retrieved from their vault (plus verifying the details and weighing them).
  • Obtain a high level understanding of the BoE gold safe custody service.
  • Continuing discussions for a comprehensive safe custody agreement between the RBA and BoE.

As the above document list shows, those relating to final audit results were not provided. I would assume the audit was successful, but no doubt that would be a highly contested opinion in the Gold blogosphere. The following reason was provided for denying access to the report:

Documents 10, 11 and 12 are drafts of the report prepared by the RBA’s Audit Department detailing the findings of the audit and document 13 is the final of that report.

Denial of access to these four documents in terms of s33(a)(iii) is appropriate because release of the information (which relates to procedures for the conduct of the audit with the BoE and the subsequent results) ‘would, or could reasonably be expected to, cause damage to’ the relationship between the RBA and the BoE. This belief is soundly held by us on the basis that we are aware that the BoE provides safe custody services not only to the RBA, but also to other central banks around the world.  Disclosure of the information in these documents could damage the relationship between the BoE and its other central bank clients, and by extension (as the source of the information), the relationship between the BoE and RBA. As foreshadowed to you in earlier correspondence, we consulted with the BoE in relation to these documents and they affirmed the views we held regarding the damage that would be done to the relationship between the BoE and RBA if the redacted information were disclosed.

Denial of access to these four documents is also appropriate in terms of s47E(a) (‘disclosure would, or could be reasonably expected to, prejudice the effectiveness of procedures or methods for the conduct of tests, examinations or audits’ by the Bank) and (b) (‘disclosure would, or could be reasonably expected to, prejudice the attainment of the objects of particular tests, examinations or audits conducted, or to be conducted’, by the Bank). The documents in question concern the ‘procedures and methods’ within both the RBA and the BoE regarding the conduct of the physical check of a sample of gold bars (for the purpose of conducting the audit). Disclosure of this information would, of course, reveal those procedures and methods, and by logical extension render them less effective. Also, the ability of the Bank to attain the objects of the audit (which is to reveal whether the Bank’s arrangements are robust and secure) would be prejudiced. These considerations apply to both the audit currently the subject of your FOI request and also any other audits undertaken by the RBA. A key requirement for undertaking a successful audit (of any aspect of the RBA’s work) is that there is as little opportunity as possible for individuals to take steps to predict what an auditor may choose to focus on, and/or how they will conduct the audit. It is self-evident that if such procedures and methods are revealed, then the opportunity to circumvent them is greatly increased.  As s47E is a public interest conditional exemption, I must take into account whether the giving of access is in the general public interest (in terms of s11A(5)). When deciding whether access is in the public interest, I must take into account the following from s11B(3) and have noted my views in each case:

Section 11B(3) factors favouring access to the document in the public interest include whether access to the document would do any of the following:

(a) promote the objects of this Act (including all the matters set out in sections 3 and 3A); release would be contrary to some sections, particularly sections 2(a) and 3(3)

(b) inform debate on a matter of public importance; the Bank’s gold holdings, while important and of interest to some, are not a matter of public importance generating any level of debate.

(c) promote effective oversight of public expenditure; release of the information would not do this.

(d) allow a person to access his or her own personal information; the request is not seeking personal information.

Taking into account these factors, and the implications release of the information would have on the Bank’s audit processes, I have decided that it is clearly not in the public interest to disclose the information in these four documents (10, 11, 12 and 13).  Disclosure of these documents would manifestly harm the public interest by way of reducing the ability of the RBA to successfully conduct audits and tests of its operations going forward.

The released documents (mostly a chain of various emails) also suggested the RBA has been invited back for another review in 12 months.

One interesting point from the documents; the Bank of England was emailing clients in June 2013 (those for whom they’re providing custodial services) inviting them to audit samples of their Gold:

Bank of EnglandGold Inspection Letter

Given that the RBA has followed the lead of other countries to release reserve location details, perform audits and release (some) bar list details, it will be interesting to see whether they go further and follow the lead of the many countries now deciding to repatriate some or all of their Gold reserves…However discussions on the RBA audit were already well advanced at that time.

I’m sharing links and opinions daily on Twitter (@BullionBaron).

The Bank Of England Lost 755 Tonnes Of Gold In 2013

The Bank Of England (BoE) just came out with their annual report 2014. In the report it’s stated the BoE is the custodian of 5485 metric tonnes of gold (£140 billion pounds measured February 28, 2014). From the BoE annual report 2014:

The Bank provides custodial services for a range of customers. As at 28 February 2014, total assets held by the Bank as custodian were £594bn, of which £140bn were holdings of gold.

In the BoE’s annual report 2013 it was stated they held 6240 tonnes of gold (£210 billion pounds measured February 28, 2013). From the BoE annual report 2013:

As part of this strategy the Bank also provides custodial services for a range of customers. As of 28 February 2013, total assets held by the Bank as custodian were £699 billion, of which £210 billion were holdings of gold.

(To calculate the tonnage I used a gold price of £1046.719 for February 2013 and £793.931 for February 2014)

According to the BoE they had 755 tonnes less gold in their vaults in February 2014 relative to February 2103 (in contrast to reports the BoE lost 1300 tonnes in 2013). The BoE is a custodian for central banks and the LBMA, the removed gold from the vaults was most likely from LBMA customers. GLD’s gold inventory is vaulted in London, but I’m not positive how much, if any, of their gold is stored at the BoE. GLD’s stock lost 451 tonnes over this period. If everything GLD lost came from their own HSBC vault, and nothing from their sub-custodian the BoE, the gold removed from both GLD and the BoE in total is 1206 tonnes.

However, when we look at UK’s net gold trade over this period (March 2013 – February 2014), we can see 1593 tonnes were exported.

UK Gold Trade 2009 - march 2014

This leaves a gap of 392 tonnes (1593 minus 1201), which had to be supplied by additional LBMA or private vaults in London.