Ukraine Bank Investigates Gold Bar Heist

The risks of storing precious metals at a bank have been highlighted in the Ukraine this week, after someone stole gold bullion from one of the country’s most prominent institutions.

An employee at the central bank in Odessa is alleged to have passed lead bars covered in gold paint through to the organisation’s storage facility, Vesti newspaper reports.

The counterfeit bullion was used to conceal the fact that real gold had been taken, a source with knowledge on the incident confirmed. Approximately 11 kg of bars were stolen, with a value of approximately US$300,000 (AU$370,000).

Volodymyr Shablienko, head of Odessa police’s press office, told Bloomberg that his officers are currently conducting a forensic audit.

“The management of the central bank’s branch in Odessa asked us to investigate fraud by their employee,” he explained.

The gold was reportedly stolen between August and October, although criminal proceedings did not start until December 18.

After the scam came to light, Ukraine’s national bank announced it would not purchase over-the-counter precious metals due to doubts over authenticity.

This is not the first time Ukrainian banks have been in the news recently regarding their gold bullion practices.

Ukraine National Bank Chief Executive Valeria Gontareva surprised market experts earlier this year when she admitted on Ukraine’s Kharkiv TV that the country’s gold reserves were missing.

In fact, there is supposedly almost no bullion left in the bank’s vaults, with gold comprising just 1 per cent of the country’s reserves. This is despite official reports claiming in February that the institution held $1.8 billion worth of gold – or 8 per cent of total assets, Zerohedge reports.

The current location of the gold is unclear, although some industry commentators believe the precious metal may have been moved to the US Federal Reserve due to political upheaval in the Ukraine.

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