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Guardian: Austrian repatriation arises from fear of new Auric Goldfinger and Pussy Galore

Section: Daily Dispatches

It would be hard to miss the point more spectacularly than this.

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Austria's Central Bank to Repatriate L3.5 Billion of Gold Reserves from UK

By Phillip Inman
The Guardian, London
Thursday, May 28, 2016

Austria's central bank plans to repatriate £3.5bn of its gold reserves currently stored in Britain -- amounting to 80% of its entire stocks -- after auditors warned against the risks of keeping a majority in a foreign country.

The Austrian National Bank will spend the next five years flying gold bars back to Vienna to raise its own stocks to half the total of 280 tonnes.

The move echoes Germany's plan in 2013 to repatriate all of its gold stocked in France as well as some of the reserves held in the United States, to ensure at least 50% was kept on German soil by 2020.

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Until now the Austrian National Bank has relied on the Bank of England to watch over most of its L6.7 billion gold reserves. The BoE looks after much of the world's gold as most central banks send some of the stocks to London for safekeeping.

Now the BoE's stock of the precious metal will be reduced to 30%, while Austria will hold 50% and Switzerland 20%.

The Austrian authorities appeared to be conscious of the perils of bulk-storing gold in the manner of Fort Knox in the US, made famous by Auric Goldfinger's attempted heist in the third James Bond film.

The fictional villain seeks to corner the gold market in his position as treasurer of Smersh, the arch enemy of MI6. However, the decision was taken earlier this year, before the Hatton Garden robbery, which saw millions of pounds of precious metals and jewels stolen and resulted in mass arrests this month.

The central bank shifted its position after a report by the Austrian court of audit in February, which warned of a "heightened concentration risk" linked to storing the majority of its reserves in Britain.

At the time, the bank had argued that the policy was warranted because London was a major international centre for the gold trade. London's bullion market is the largest in the world and attracts buyers from Europe, Asia, Africa, and US.

Transport of the bullion is likely to be arranged with one of the four main security firms listed by the London Bullion Market -- Brink’s, G4S, Malca-Amit Commodities, and VIA-MAT, most of which operate out of business units near Heathrow airport.

It is likely the bars will be flown out of the country in five-tonne batches, on specially commissioned and heavily guarded planes.

Vienna confirmed that it would begin to repatriate 92.4 tonnes this summer. A further 47.6 tonnes will be transferred from Britain to Switzerland.

Last year Swiss voters rejected a proposal to force the central bank to bring back gold reserves from Britain and Canada.

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