Investigation: Canadian officials knew about wartime laundering

MONTREAL, July 29 (JTA) — A preliminary investigation has revealed that Canadian government officials were aware of wartime moves by the Bank of Canada that, in effect, laundered Nazi gold owned by the central bank of Portugal. The investigation, launched earlier this month by the Bank of Canada, came in response to the release two weeks ago of a wartime U.S. intelligence document indicating that 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. Officials at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York refused earlier this month to comment on the intelligence document. The document’s release prompted the Canadian Jewish Congress to write a letter to the Bank of Canada demanding a probe. According to the Bank of Canada’s investigation, whose results were issued Monday, Canadian government officials were aware that 12 tons of gold held by the Swiss central bank for Portugal — all of which had likely been looted by the Nazis from the banks of European countries they overran — had been transferred to Portugal’s account in the Canadian central bank. The move, accomplished on the account books of the Canadian and Swiss central banks without any physical transfer of gold bullion, had, in effect, laundered the gold, removing any evidence that the gold in Portugal’s account had originally been looted by the Nazis. The Bank of Canada has now requested that a history professor, Duncan McDowall, conduct a more thorough investigation of the wartime bank transfers. Jewish leaders applauded the quick action taken by the Bank of Canada, but noted that more investigative work remained. “While the report sheds much needed light on important matters, it also poses a series of new important questions that must seriously be looked into,” CJC president Goldie Hershon said in a letter to Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin. “We applaud the appointment of Professor McDowall, whose credentials are excellent. “I think they recognized the fact that someone of an independent nature had to be appointed in order to make sure the findings are not regarded as tainted in any way.”

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