Govt, central bank must probe vault gold tampering

Published at 12:05am on July 19, 2018

THE mismatch both in quality and quantity detected in the gold deposited into the Bangladesh Bank vault in an investigation of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate of the National Board of Revenue comes with shock and worry on a couple of counts. Although the Bangladesh Bank has brushed aside the investigation report saying that the mismatch was due to clerical mistakes and differences in measurement, it leaves people confused, about the efficiency of the people concerned dealing with the deposits and their records and about the event itself. It also questions the security measures that the Bangladesh Bank has deployed. The earlier incident of $81 million of the Bangladesh Bank being stole from the bank’s account with the Federal Reserve Bank in New York in February 2016 only comes to corroborate this perception. The CIID team, which conducted the investigation between January and April 2017 to check the stock of gold in the central bank vault, in some cases, found the quality of deposited gold ornaments better that what they measured at the time of deposition by customs officials. In one case, the team found 11.2 carats, with 46.66 per cent purity, in a gold disk and 2.63 carats, with 15.12 per cent purity, in a gold ring, which the bank received as 18 carat gold with 80 per cent purity.
In 44 cases, the team found the amount of gold more than what was initially recorded. In 23 cases, as for quality, the team found 22 carat gold ornaments which the bank received as 18 carats. A probable embezzlement, pending further investigation, of gold from the disk and the ring could cause the government Tk 1,12,000 in financial losses while disparity in the quantity and quality in gold bars and ornaments could cause the government Tk 19.1 million in financial losses. The central bank officials sought to say that they use a six-tier security system where even the governor needs authentication for entry and that they asked customs intelligence to have the gold checked at the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, which the customs people refused, as they think the problems were with the quality measurement tools of customs intelligence. In a situation like this, it is imperative for the government to set up an independent investigation to find out whether the gold deposited into the Bangladesh Bank vault has either been replaced or tampered. It is now for both the government and the central bank to dispel the confusion that has been created centring on the matter.
The government and the central bank, under the circumstance, must set up an investigation to establish what happened to the gold deposited into the central bank vault and make the report public as people have the right to know this, especially after the Bangladesh Bank reserve theft from its account with New York’s Federal Reserve Bank. The issue also entails on the government to weigh the security system that the central bank has deployed and whether it is up to the standards that the central bank claims it to be.