By Jaco Schipper
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Thursday night Knot gave a live interview to the television program “Nieuwsuur” in which he announced that about 40 percent of Dutch pensioners will soon face reduced pensions. Knot also argued for mortgage tax reduction to address the excessive indebtedness of Dutch households, which is about 120 percent of gross national product. Perhaps most interesting, Knot allowed “Nieuwsuur” to film in the central bank's vault, where the Dutch audience saw what is not there.
Based on the footage shown on Thursday and additional images found at the central bank's Inteet site, we had already calculated that there are some 4,500 gold bars located in the bank's vault. Our calculation showed that there are at least 56 tons of gold stored in Amsterdam, possibly more, we speculated, in the form of gold coins. We proved to be not far off, as Friday night the definitive answer was given by Knot himself.
In a follow-up by “Nieuwsuur” Friday night (see below), Knot disclosed that some 67 tons of Netherlands govement gold, worth 3 billion euros, is kept in Amsterdam. Knot acknowledged on camera that this is only a small portion of the Dutch gold reserve. For practical reasons, he said, most of the 612.5 tons of official gold reserve is held abroad, so that “if the Dutch central bank wants to sell some of its gold, we don't have to ship it.”
Member of Parliament Ewout Irrgang told reporters that the Dutch gold reserve has always been surrounded by much hysteria and questions about its location. In September, Irrgang formally asked the Dutch Treasury where the gold reserves are located and how much is where. The Treasury replied that the Dutch gold is located in Ottawa, New York, London, and Amsterdam, but did not specify how much is in each place.
But now it is admitted that only 10 percent of 612.5 tons of the tenth- largest official gold reserve is held in the Netherlands itself, and Irrgang told the reporters that he was “startled” that 90 percent is abroad because gold “is the ultimate anchor of trust, especially during times of financial unrest and panic. With these kind of scenarios it is not practicable to have over 90 percent of Dutch gold reserves abroad.”
Financial analyst Jim Rickards' book “Currency Wars” caught the attention of “Nieuwsuur” and the program, interviewing him from New York, asked about the possible confiscation of foreign gold reserves by their custodian, the U.S. govement. Rickards told about the U.S. Defense Department's financial war games and summarized elegantly: “U.S. lawyers have an expression: Possession is nine-tenths of the law, and since we possess the gold … then we're 90 percent on the way to owning it.” Rickards estimates that perhaps 100 to 200 tons of gold are located in New York.
Asked if he knew of suggestions that the U.S. govement could confiscate foreign gold reserves in its custody to bring its own gold reserve to 17,000 tons — 65 percent of official world gold reserves — with which to establish a new reserve currency controlled by the United States, Knot responded: “I am not familiar with such a scenario. We are regularly confronted with the extra-territorial functioning of laws from the United States and usually these are not cheerfully received in Europe (laugh) and this one is also new to me. I would be surprised.”
Willem Middelkoop, who manages the Gold&Discovery Fund and is author of three books, one of which foresaw many of the financial problems of today, was also interviewed by “Nieuwsuur,” said the Dutch authorities should make use of Rickards' insights and bring the Dutch gold back to the Netherlands. “In the 1930s,” Middelkoop said, “there was a risk of a German invasion, so there was a reason to move our gold reserve. Then there was the threat that maybe the Russians would invade us. But nowadays I don't see any reason not to locate the Dutch gold reserve in the Netherlands.”
MP Irrgang also called for a change in the central bank's gold location policy and said he was surprised that the U.S. govement might consider confiscating the gold of other nations.
But Knot took a different position. He said the Dutch gold has always been safe in New York and that Dutch-American relations have always been good. Asked if despite these good relations, it still would be wise to relocate the gold, Knot answered resolutely, “No.”
Some important questions remain unanswered. Just how much Dutch gold is located in New York, Ottawa, and London? Exactly who has custody? Are the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, and the Bank of Canada the custodians of our gold or has our gold been transferred to the custody of third parties such as bullion banks HSBC, JP Morgan, and Scotia Mocatta?
Since the Dutch central bank seems to be very reluctant to change its gold location policy, perhaps bank president Knot can continue with greater transparency and arrange and publish an independent audit along with the serial numbers of the Dutch gold bars held abroad. If all is well, then this should not be a problem.
For images of DNB's vault see here.