UK Treasury Relases FOIA On Gordon Brown's 1998 Gold Sale, Catches Tony Blair Lying, Questions US Treasury's Good Delivery Standards

Tyler Durden's picture

One of the bigger stories in the UK over the past several days, has been the increasing pressure on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to justify his sale of 395 tons of gold in 17 auctions in the period from 1998 through 2002, when Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer, a role identical to the one Tim Geithner now performs in the US as Treasury Secretary. The issue is that in the abovementioned period, gold was trading at the rock bottom prices of the past two decades, and as such his rush to sell is estimated to have cost UK taxpayers £6 billion. One reason previously given to Parliament, to explain the transactions from Treasury ministers and Tony Blair was that the sale was made 'on the technical advice of the Bank of England.' Today the UK Treasury has released long-withheld FOIA documents which disprove this claim, and indicate that in fact the BOE was if not completely against selling the bullion then certainly waiting until the price improved. Furthermore, as the Daily Mail reports, "A source close to the Bank of England said last night: 'It was not our
decision. It was their decision and we simply provided technical
advice. Then it was up to them.'
" Yet, in light of recent LBMA manipulation revelations by GATA, it was most likely the association itself and its member banks which pressed the then relatively new Chancellor to do something against the interest of his people, potentially with promises of further rank extension in the "public services" arena. So far, they have not disappointed. 

As part of the FOIA, (Full document attached below) it becomes clear that Brown attempted at least 4 tried to persuade the BOE to proffer a joint proposal from the Treasury and the Bank Of England as pertains to English gold sales in the late 1998 period. And even as the FOIA submission is now making the round, there is still a critical redaction. To wit, from the Daily Mail:

Two days before Christmas 1998  -  just a month before the sale was
announced  -  a senior Treasury official wrote to the department's then
permanent secretary Gus O'Donnell: 'The Chancellor is keen that
officials at the Treasury and the Bank work together to produce a joint
proposal. As I understand it the latest proposal is not a joint one.

Chancellor needs to know the status of the proposal, what the
difficulties are in drawing up a joint proposal, how you think we can
move forward in achieving a joint proposal.'

Three weeks
later Mr Brown met the then Bank Governor Lord George for lunch to
discuss the plan. But the outcome of the talks is unclear because the
Treasury has blacked out a key section of the only note referring to

Lord George offered only the most lukewarm endorsement
of the decision at the time, telling MPs it was a 'perfectly reasonable
portfolio decision'.

If he had refused to agree to the sale he would almost certainly have had to resign.

Surely, Gordon Brown, facing with some very daunting poll numbers ahead of upcoming elections, will now have even more explaining to do.

Yet what mostly caught our attention was Annex #29 to a Bank Of England paper from September 28, 1998, in which the following was said:

The US treasury sold gold in two spells, two auctions of 23 and 15 tonnes in 1975, which were not continued in 1976 as the IMF auctions were announced and the spot price fell; a larger programme of 491 tonnes during 1978-1979 as the gold price rose sharply. Indeed the second programme was extended three times as demand for gold continued to push up the spot price. The US Treasury used a multi-price auction system initially with open bids, but switched to closed bigs by the end because open bids were causing market disruption [can't have a transparent market now, can we]. The auctions in 1979 offered two grades of gold: 995 fine and 900 fine. It is not clear whether this was a market-driven switch, or whether it reflected the US Treasury's preference.

Now correct us if we are wrong, but (London) Good Delivery standards by the LBMA have called for 995 and higher fineness since time immemorial. How is it that the US Treasury decided to dilute the content of its gold dispositions precisely at the time when gold prices were surging. And, more relevantly, why? Recall that in the period January 1979 - January 1980 gold price/toz went from $240 to $850! Did the US, for whatever reason forced to sell into the run up, need to dilute gold holdings due to a massive shortage of physical? By doing so, did the UST force buyer to sign "big boy" letters fully acknowledging that they were getting less than Good Delivery gold? Was this 10% dilution merely the first step in what Adrian Douglas recently highlighted would be the transition of gold claims holders into general unsecured creditors? If a 4x run up in gold forced the US Treasury to enact a 10% real dilution in gold, what would happen if gold surged 40x? Would the fineness of the adjusted "good delivery" drop to 100 or lower? Forget the LBMA and the threat of physical dilution - a much more relevant question is just how much of the alleged US gold holdings of 8133.5 tonnes is actually real. Surely, the question of just how much gold is there below the HSBC building in New York's Bryant Park, and below the FRBNY has never been more relevant.

Full HM-Treasury FOIA.


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doolittlegeorge's picture

this reminds me of the scene in the movie Austin Powers where Dr Evil comes back from being frozen and demands "$1 million dollars" or else he will destroy the world.

perchprism's picture


Yeah, 6 billion pounds, who cares?  But the fact is, it was 395 tonnes of gold.  That's why it was a rip-off of the British people.  That's why heads should roll today.  Unforgivable.

But it also points out the fact that gold is vastly under-valued.  It's a screaming buy at $1110/troy oz.



swamp's picture

This is no small story, the peoples' gold was sold under questionable circumstances to questionable buyers at multi decade bottom prices. The web of lies is being exposed. There wasn't any internet then, and much more controls were in place on information that circulated to the people. This is more high level deceit and theft, and the indigenous  people of England are again the victims.

A Man without Qualities's picture

I must try and stay calm or my blood pressure will start to rise, but it seems this is just another example of Tony Blair acting in interests other than of the British people.  Even now, a few years after his departure it is still hard to fathom who exactly Blair was working for.  Maybe, we will find out he was actually a US asset, placed in the heart of the Labour Party, where people would least expect him to be.  His appointment at JP Morgan would support this idea.  Say what you like about the Queen of England, but she is a good judge of character, and she never liked Blair.

There is an interesting story from GATA below, which may hint that the decision by European central banks to cease leasing gold meant that some of the banks that were keeping the price low were in serious trouble, so the sale was hurried through.  Now, if this was the case, you would hope Blair and Brown extracted some benefit in return for this, but we will probably never know the full story

dnarby's picture

I very well may have seriously misunderstood something, but unless my understanding (which is repeated here ) is wrong, going from 0.995 fine to 0.990 fine is a reduction in gold content of 0.5%, not 10%.

Seems to me it's just not worth it refining existing 0.990 bars to get that extra 0.005 fineness.  The cost of re-refining would be many multiples the increase of the price of the bar.

At best it meant they had to dig out some really old, dusty bars to make delivery (and arm twist a bit to get them accepted).  Which could be significant.

Absinthe Minded's picture

They went from .995 fine to .900 fine which was a 9.5 % decrease in gold content. I know if I were shelling out $1100 an ounce for a kilo bar I'd want that f@ker (no link but I thought faker was more apt here) to be .9999.

Crime of the Century's picture

How is it that the US Treasury decided to dilute the content of its gold dispositions precisely at the time when gold prices were surging. And, more relevantly, why?

1930's coin melt baby. This Ft. Knox, it does not mean what you think it means...

GoldmanSux's picture

Moreover, I bet the 1970's USA gold sales referenced here where not even declared publicly. This is shop talk from the Fed to the BoE that was not meant to be put on paper. Someone smarter than me can access whether my belief is true or not.

SWRichmond's picture

I remember hearing nothing about these sales, but I was a pup.  Volcker famously made a statement about how they "should never have let gold get so high" or something.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

If you think it was a mistake to allow a price to get too high, you are implying you have control of said price.


"It was probably a mistake to allow gold to rise so high."
-- Paul Volcker, ex Federal Reserve Chairman in looking back at the rise of gold from $35 to $850 during the 1970s, per "Paul Volcker: The Making of a Financial Legend" by Joseph B. Treaster


If you talk about joint intervention, you are talking about a concerted effort by multiple parties. This could also be known as a conspiracy.

"Joint intervention in gold sales to prevent a steep rise in the price of gold, however, was not undertaken. That was a mistake."
Paul Volcker,from the Nikkei Weekly, which in 2004 published excerpts from his memoirs commenting on monetary policy and the rising gold price in the 1970s

Hephasteus's picture

That pretty much sums it up like a mathematician.

MsCreant's picture

Logician, but yeah. That the idea that joint intervention could have been on the table tells volumes.

GoldmanSux's picture

Moreover, I bet the 1970's USA gold sales references here where not even declared publicly. This is shop talk from the Fed to the BoE that was not meant to be put on paper. Someone smarter than me can access whether my belief is true or not.

Tapeworm's picture

The .900 fine is "coin melt" of US gold coin that has always been 9/10ths. They were selling bars that were made from melting US gold coin or Latin Union coins if they had them.

 It wasn't a conspiracy. They simply could not supply refined gold to Good Delivery standard.

Shameful's picture


To me this sounds clearly like coin melt.  Probably from what they had from FRDs looting. While I'm no fan of the government we don't know if they cheated customers at a 10% haircut either.  But we have records of govs selling into the market to keep the price down.  God bless them keep that price down and out of the hands of the banks and looters.

M.B. Drapier's picture

Why wouldn't they have been able to refine their .900 coin gold up to .995 before casting the bars though? Were they in a hurry or something? (I really don't know.)

Shameful's picture

Speed might have been an issue.  It might also have been they did not want to be seen casting new bars.  Casting new bars for sale might have had a few people talking and that word getting out would have been counter productive to keeping gold down.  After all if the public knew they were scrambling to get gold together to sell, and if it is thought to keep the price down that would draw buyers to take advantage.

swamp's picture

Awh shucks. That simple huh? You shouda wroten the story.

Moreover, likey the gold of We The People looted from my grandparents.

jeff montanye's picture

looted is a bit strong but paying them $22 an ounce and, when all who were going to turn it in turned it in, raising the price to $35 does seem a little sneaky.  probably realized he wasn't losing any votes.

SWRichmond's picture

Looted describes it perfectly.  It's an overt act of theft under color of authority.  They knew they were going to devalue gold, they "paid" them $20.67 an ounce, then promptly devalued the paper they'd just given them by 70% by revaluing the gold to $35.00 an ounce.  Instant hyperinflation!  Theft from, and punishment of, prudent savers!  It was the most immoral thing imaginable.  Whether it was "lawful" or not doesn't really matter, does it?  It was an act meant to maintain the status quo power structure.  It wasn't done for the good of the people, it was done for the good of the upper class.  It was done as an alternative to admitting that governments are incompetent and not to be trusted.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

"Whether it was "lawful" or not doesn't really matter, does it?"

Thank you for saying that. True scoundrels will make sure whatever they do is "within the law" even if that means paying off the authorities to declare it so. The USA and most of the rest of the world has deliberately moved away from "common law" which is not just simple law but law that upholds the commonly held sense of proper justice and moved to "law of precedent" or worse, laws specifically written to allow certain behavior the law makers would not want the general public to participate in.

Hardly the definition of justice.

Shameful's picture

Actually was not lawful.  IIRC FDR started looting it and they passed the law allowing the looting after the fact to legitimize it.  Also one can argue it's unconstitutional because that was the first break away from gold and silver as money that would be finished in in the 70s.  But as CD points out what is lawful is what they can get away with.  Having a monopoly on force and violence lets one get away with a lot.  He who has the gun makes the rules.

swamp's picture

Many thanks SWRichmond.

In 1933 new President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill forcing all the American people, to hand over all their gold at base rate. With the exception of rare coins. He disowned himself from the bill claiming to not have read it and his secretary of the treasury claimed this was "what the experts wanted".

Gold...Bitches's picture

exactly.  If they didnt know what they were doing why is there always cash settlement availability in the event of not being able to deliver the hard commodity.  Only reason is so that when it blows up and there is a default they get to claim some force majeure action and pay you off in paper while the market is closed with a 'holiday' and then when it reopens its a hell of a lot higher than before. 

Shameful's picture

It's simple because it's normal for the state to loot it citizens.  Look at history and you will see that governments rob their people constantly under all manner of pretenses.  Must be nice to have the monopoly on force and violence!

Alexandra Hamilton's picture

but switched to closed bigs by the end because open bids were causing market disruption

Yeah, right. This means they couldn't get the price they wanted, so they chose to dictate it. The hidden hand fixes everything.

Double down's picture

"redaction" and "To wit,..." and right beside one another, beautiful. 

(Could not help myself, must be the drink.)


Another great article

TheGoodDoctor's picture

Does it seem that things are cracking slowly. We seem to have a little more info daily. Thanks for the article info.

Apocalypse Now's picture

New article worth reading just posted -

Read through the history, you just might catch gold fever.

Got gold?

SWRichmond's picture

Something important has changed. Can you feel it? It started about 12 months ago and has changed more in the last month alone than it did in the previous 12 months, and more in the previous 12 months than in the past 12 years.

Can you figure out what it is?

While I expect history will point at several events, I believe the Barrick capitulation was the seminal event.  Why?  Because it was public, and it was the sort of event that caught the attention of the "investor class".  I firmly believe that there are two reasons why the dollar hasn't broken: one is the financial class is completely invested in the dollar / Wall Street / geopolitical regime, and the other reason is that the investor class is the stupidest bunch of herd-instinct fucks imaginable.  The Barrick capitulation was a public announcement that the gold suppression scheme had failed.  Some of the investor class actually noticed, and the subject of gold became more "respectable".  Events accelerated after it occurred.  This is also when the number of radical Internet dollar bugs noticeably increased.

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Yes, that same FOFOA paragraph struck me last night too.  When he asked if we could figure it out, the only thing I could think of was the recent exposé of the COMEX manipulations (well, I was drinking too).

It amazes me that practically every day how much more I learn about gold and how corrupt our financial and .gov systems are.

Gordon Gecko's comment yesterday about how the "gold mothership" was quite the metaphor.  I should have junked him!  LOL

Shameful's picture

I've found FOFOA an interesting read but I always laughed about his price range.  I'm not laughing as much anymore with revelation that the "physical" market is 100 to 1 fractional.  Sure greed makes me think "Man it would be cool if my PMs moon shot" but then I also have to worry about what will society look like if/when gold rockets to the moon if the fractional system breaks. 

Cookie's picture

Bliar now surely has to be the most discredited PM in our once proud nation's history.

svendthrift's picture

Yet the conservatives likely won't be able to earn a majority. How much damage has New Labour done? Civil liberties, privacy, debt..

Shameful's picture

Well I hope if Brown wins again he'll do us a solid and sell the rest of UK's gold in a similar stunningly stupid manner.  How did this loser fail his way to the top?  Was he even ever elected for anything?  I mean at least Bush was elected governor of Texas.

M.B. Drapier's picture

Was he even ever elected for anything?

Of course! Like almost everyone to hold a UK cabinet post (other than Lord Chancellor) recently, he's a member of the House of Commons. He's MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

Bthewee's picture

Guys - Forgive Me - So Sorry to Jac any post....

But I don't have my own forum and this is the one forum I pledge my allegiance too everyday. 

So..... just wanted to get this out there and hope it helps a few people who are dealing with how to answer this query from our GOV.

Here ya' go 



Census Rebutal 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Re: 2010 Census

@ 1234 Main St.

Any Where, USA 50001


To: United States Department of Commerce

U.S.Census Bureau

Dear Sir or Madame,


At the present time, there are (X) full time occupants residing in the above referenced address.

Pursuant to Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution that is the only information you are empowered to request.  Our “name, sex, age, date of birth, race, ethnicity, telephone number, relationship and housing tenure” have absolutely nothing to do with apportioning direct taxes or determining the number of representatives in the House of Representatives.  Therefore, neither Congress nor the Census Bureau has the constitutional authority to make that information request a component of the enumeration outlined in Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution. 


Furthermore, I/We cannot be subject to a fine or penalty for basing our conduct on the Constitution, because the U.S. Constitution trumps all laws passed by Congress.

Please reference the United States Supreme Court ruling:

Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brimson,

154 U.S. 447, 479 (May 26, 1894)


Please… Do NOT send any census taker in person to my door as I will just give them the same printed note and ask them to leave my property. You may then take any legal action deemed constitutional.


Thank you,




P.S. (By the way, the above 116 year Supreme court ruling has NEVER been overturned.)


i.e. Further Supreme Court Rulings on the subject;

Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168, 190.

Boyd v. U.S., 116 U. S. 616, 630, 6 Sup. Ct. 524,

Re Pacific Ry. Commission, 32 Fed. 241, 250,


swamp's picture

Thank you. I knew the form was illegal but didn't have the codes.
The trash is another way of handling the problem.

tip e. canoe's picture

notice how the only question on the census form that is inside a box is the # of occupants?  every other question is outside the box.  sneaky sneaky.

SWRichmond's picture

Yes I noticed that, and only answered that question.

tip e. canoe's picture

had an argument with my partner about it (filling out the entire form vs. not sending it at all).  we compromised at just filling out the box.  we'll see if the hired help come knockin in May asking for more.

jimmyjames's picture

Also--Canada sold almost 700 metric tons from 1980-2000

Take it for what its worth-but--some people--point out- using some good evidence-that the gold dumping was engineered-to bring down the Soviet Union--

Oil also went from $40 to $8-as the Saudies and Kuwaiti's flooded the market--

Gold and Oil were Russias biggest exports--

They did collapse--

The story is old--but so is this topic--

swamp's picture

Putin is waiting for payback, but not passively. He has been arranging oil deals with China — in their respective currencies, that is, not using US dollars.

Putin has been actively buying large amounts of kilo gold bars for a few years now, massively increasing Russia's reserves.

theworldisnotenough's picture

To answer a question from another thread. Yes blogs are relevant...

I could say we just need to get physical delivery and call the bluff of the Western central bank printing presses. But I doubt that the gold market is any different than other products in general. The old 80% of your business is 20% of your customers adage is probably true for gold as well. I hope at some point one of the 20% stumble across this blog and start to take delivery of the gold bars they have bought. It would be nice to think that my purchases will make a difference but I doubt it.

Al Gorerhythm's picture

One by one. Bit by bit. Ounce by ounce.

A tree just fell in the woods and was heard by all the main players, right round the world. 

Yes, you make a difference, so double your efforts in convincing your family and friends of this historic inflection point, so that your decision to fight is amplified.

By all accounts, we are a small minority with the knowledge of this news (The whistle blower at the CFTC) and it is our role to spread it.

Go ZH, go GATA.

whacked's picture

The fact that England had to buy Euro and support the EU common currency in terms of the resolutions they agreed to wouldn't have something to do with this would it?

No that would not make a good story for GATA .. and the other AU nuts ..

Now Blair (who I do not like) may not be a liar ... as the AU was sold with the technical advice on pricing tendered by BoE... Brown (who I definitely think is a wet squib) basically had no choice but to sell an assets and replace with mainly Euro ... or be fined ..


You cannot have your cake and eat it too .. either in the EU or not .. simple .. you will find that other EU countries had also sold AU so that they could have the minimum Euro holdings.

aurum's picture

ok so why sell the peoples gold at the lowest price in close to two decades for the euro buy in? are you that naive to believe that rationale and to think that blairs actions were based soley on "technical advice?" the end you will find that the "Au nuts" were not nuts at all... and all along you were just another sheep in a government induced coma..