Emotions have regularly flared in Germany about why 45 per cent of the country‘s 3,391 tons of gold bars is stashed deep beneath the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in Manhattan.
The original reason was that West Germany earned it through trade surpluses in the 1950s and 1960s and never moved it out of the United States to ensure that it did not lose the lot in the event Germany was invaded by the Soviet Union.
The German central bank, or Bundesbank, was responding Thursday to a report in the Handelsblatt newspaper claiming there were mysterious delays in the repatriation programme.
The newspaper quoted a conservative politician, Peter Gauweiler, who has repeatedly raised the issue, as doubting the gold was as instantly available in New York as claimed.
A spokeswoman for the central bank in Frankfurt said this was not true and that small shipments back to Germany were preferred for security reasons.
The spokeswoman also rejected charges that Germany was not watching the gold in New York closely enough.
"We have no doubts about the reliability of our partners," she said.
The bank said 5 tons were repatriated from New York last year, along with 32 tons brought home from Paris, and the project was proceeding apace.
Handelsblatt noted that insurers will only cover gold shipments by air, not by ship, and will not insure shipments of more than 1 ton at a time.
Germany aims to ultimately keep only 37 per cent of its gold at the Federal Reserve in New York, where most of the world stores gold. Multi-billion-dollar transfers are easily done by simply carting the gold from one country‘s cubicle to another inside the vault.
Falls in the price of gold reduced the value of the total Bundesbank gold reserves last year by 31 per cent to 94.9 billion euros as of December.