MONTREAL (Jul. 15)
The Bank of Canada has responded to demands from Jewish groups that it launch an investigation into allegations that it laundered gold looted by the Nazis.
The demands came in response to a U.S. intelligence document released last week indicating that the central banks of Switzerland and Portugal may have used the Bank of Canada to exchange and transfer looted gold that they had purchased from the German central bank.
Purchases of Nazi gold by Switzerland and Portugal — both seen as neutral during the war — have been well-documented, but there have been recent indications that the Allied nations may have played a part in laundering those purchases.
The U.S. document released last week said Portugal used the Swiss central bank to exchange 20 tons of Nazi gold for untainted gold held in the Bank of Canada and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Switzerland has denied that it helped launder looted gold for Portugal during World War II.
The document prompted the Canadian Jewish Congress to write a letter to the Bank of Canada demanding an investigation.
B’nai Brith Canada sent a similar letter to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
The governor of the Bank of Canada, Gordon Thiessen, wrote the CJC promising an immediate investigation.
“I can assure you that we will be pursuing our review quickly and thoroughly so that the situation can be clarified as soon as possible,” Thiessen wrote.
“We share your concern that the gold of other central banks held for safekeeping in Canada could have been associated in any way, however indirect, with Nazi Germany’s gold transactions.”
The CJC was satisfied with the response.
“We commend Mr. Thiessen and the Bank of Canada for taking such quick action on this matter,” said CJC National President Goldie Hershon. “A valuable lesson can be learned from the way in which the Bank of Canada has handled this revelation.”
A spokesman for the Canadian central bank said the investigation, which would focus on bank records, would likely be concluded before the end of the month.
The investigation is expected to focus on whether the Bank of Canada should have suspected Nazi links to the gold.
Officials from the World Jewish Congress, which has spearheaded efforts to throw light on Allied and neutral nations’ purchases of Nazi gold, said it was premature to judge the activities of the Canadian and U.S. central banks.
WJC Vice President Kalman Sultanik said no evidence has yet surfaced showing that the Canadian or American banks were aware they were possibly laundering Nazi gold.