2ndlook

Must India Curb Gold Imports: Why It’s A Bad Idea

Posted in Business, China, Current Affairs, Gold Reserves, India, Pax Americana, Propaganda by Anuraag Sanghi on February 10, 2013

India imports 800 tons of the 2500 tons of gold produced each year. This creates pressures on the dollar-currency architecture of the modern world. What can India do to resist US pressures on this front?

Gold smuggling has gained a new life with higher import duties on gold to curb rising demand, according to Indian financial intelligence agencies |  Graphic source & courtesy - economictimes.com

Gold smuggling has gained a new life with higher import duties on gold to curb rising demand, according to Indian financial intelligence agencies | Graphic source & courtesy – economictimes.com

Fourteen months ago, in December 2011, as the Western world took a break for Christmas, India and China took simultaneous actions to restrict demand gold in their respective markets.

Chindia in Tandem

China, till December 2011, was installing gold-ATMs to ramp up gold buying by its citizens.

Government of India (GoI) was tweaking policy (gold loans attracted zero-risk weightage in bank capital provisioning norms) to aid multi-billion corporations like Muthoot Finance to expand the gold-loans market.

And then the tune changed.

In India, the Prime Minster’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) took a strident anti-gold stand. In the last 13 months, India has increased import tax by nearly 850% on gold – from a flat Rs.200/10 gm to 6% (roughly Rs.1700/10 gm at current prices & exchange rates).

In China, the Government cracked down on gold importers.

Dollar Drought

Three months before these concerted actions by India-China, in September-December 2011, as gold prices dropped from US$ 1900 to US$1600, global banking was seized by an acute dollar-scarcity.

Banks in Europe were raising money by using gold as collateral. India, the world’s largest importer of gold was particularly affected. The Indian rupee became Asia’s worst performing currency. India rushed to sign a US$15 billion of credit line from Japan.

China assured credit lines to some of its favored trading partners. Six months later, Africa got from China US$20 billion. Some US$10 billion of Chinese credit went to nations in Central and Eastern Europe and another US$10 billion to various Latin American countries came from China. Even before this, Chinese telecom firms made breakthroughs in Latin-America with credit.

A dollar-drought while the US was busy flooding the world with dollars?

A dollar shortage while Ben Bernanke is pumping trillions of dollars in the world economy?

As the difference increased in Indian and international gold prices, smuggling of gold too is making a comeback.

As the difference increased in Indian and international gold prices, smuggling of gold too is making a comeback.

Gold Tail That Wags the US dollar?

In the last 18 months, any drop in gold prices favored the dollar in the dollar:rupee trade.

Any drop in dollar-price of gold has been coupled with an increase in dollar price against the rupee. As a result, Indians had to spend more rupees to buy gold that was worth fewer dollars.

Now, this is strange!

On a long-term basis, gold has no positive, negative, inverse, divergent, convergent correlation with any other commodity, or exchange-traded stock. So why this short-term coupling of rupee:dollar:gold.

Is there a central bank consensus, including(?) Reserve Bank Of India (RBI), that the Indian consumer should not benefit from price-drops in gold?

Trade Deficit … Anyone?

India’s current account deficit i.e., exports + inward remittances less imports = current account deficit (CAD), is running at less than 6% – up from less than 3% at the start of the Great Recession.

Exports to a world in the grip of the Great Recession have grown slowly while imports-increase into a growing Indian economy is faster. While the Indian CAD situation needs addressal, it is by no means alarming.

It is well-known and widely-accepted that vast sectors of the Indian economy are not measured or monitored by official statistics. Hence, Indian GDP is understated. It is not surprising that Indian GDP measured on a nominal basis (US$1.85 trillion) is less than 42% of the figure obtained when measured on the basis of purchasing power (US$4.46 trillion).

Indian Gold Imports

Keeping these factors in mind, a CAD that is higher by 2% of India’s nominal GDP means a gap of about US$35 billion – no large sum for the Indian economy. Anyway, since a large part of Indian imports is gold, it further reduces the cause and need for alarm.

Ostensibly, India’s CAD situation is due to gold, India’s second largest import, according to GoI. The Indian Government has targeted gold for its policy-intervention attention. Prima facie, US$60 billion gold imports cannot be the issue for a US$2 trillion economy. There are good reasons to believe that this policy intervention by the GoI is happening under US pressure – because Indian gold imports account for one-third of total mine production of gold in a year.

In the past …

The Indian Government’s “management” of the rupee-dollar till the 1970’s meant the rupee at a higher value. Over the 1980s and early nineties in a series of devaluations, Indian rupee’s over-valuation was corrected. Before that, there was a massive arbitrage opportunity between  official exchange-rates and a thriving black market.

A blogger who has been travelling to this part of the world writes

“…in 1969 a dollar fetched 13 rupees, although you could buy 28 rupees for a dollar in Switzerland and 40 rupees for a dollar in Kabul. The official exchange rate is now 38.50 rupees for a dollar, a nice deal”

This high rupee-value gave rise to an active black market in foreign exchange, supported by gold smuggling into India; drug transshipment out of India from the Golden Crescent and the Golden Triangle. This drug+gold trade spawned a huge crime wave of global proportions.

Artificial valuation of the rupee made exports uncompetitive; imports cheap – for which there was no foreign exchange. India regularly had meetings with AID India Consortium and elaborate cases for borrowings were made. The trade deficit remained.

Will things be different this time? I am sure that a few people in the Central Bank consensus group who think that this time, it will be different.

How serious is the smuggling problem?

Gold imports through Thailand have increased as India has a free trade agreement with Thailand that allows gold imports at !1% instead of 6%  |  Image source & courtesy - economictimes.indiatimes.com...

Gold imports through Thailand have increased as India has a free trade agreement with Thailand that allows gold imports at !1% instead of 6% | Image source & courtesy – economictimes.indiatimes.com…

Why is the RBI Wrong?

RBI’s anti-gold policy is definitely misplaced.

Indian gold imports at 800+ tons are a cause of disequilibrium, with global production at some 2500 tons.

So be it.

India is at the receiving end of a bad deal in agricultural subsidies, foreign exchange reserves, technology imports, UN, IMF, World Bank – not to forget a bad deal in oil.

It is not like India controls global gold mines or production. Or is India in any position to stop other buyers from purchasing gold? Unfair apart, why must GoI + RBI take unilateral  steps to restrict gold imports into India?

Currency Printing: Like every other central bank in the world, the RBI also has been printing too many rupees. Unlike the rest of the world, Indian consumers have been sterilizing excessive printing of the Indian rupee by buying gold. This way, the market automatically sterilizes excess rupee liquidity.

More taxes is more profits for smugglers: The higher the difference between international prices and official prices, higher the profit margin for illegal imports.

In fact, raising of duty has only enhanced the profit margin of smugglers,” said a senior DRI official who did not want to be identified. (via Gold smuggling on the rise as imports turn costlier – Livemint).

“As of now, gold smuggling is limited to air passengers and carriers, which has limitations in terms of volume and cost. The bulk smuggling channels (by sea and land) have not revived, but the recent increase in customs duty will provide the profit differential to revive it,” said a senior customs official who too did not want to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue. This person added that it would be impossible for enforcement agencies to contain smuggling through these routes. (via Gold smuggling on the rise as imports turn costlier – Livemint).

Trade Deficit: Is this increase in Customs likely to reduce India’s trade deficit? Unlikely. It will increase capital-flight to offshore financial centres – from where foreign-exchange earnings will get higher returns than in India. Higher customs or other barriers will mean more (and more) policy interventions that will increase compliance overload and reduce policy-impact.

If the proposed duties do indeed lead to more smuggling, though it would not appear in India’s balance sheet, it could continue to pressure the Indian rupee, which has been losing value against the U.S. dollar in recent months. (via Gold Smuggling Redux in India? – India Real Time – WSJ).

Questioning the anti-gold logic of the Govt apart, increasing customs duties from 2% to 6% will not change a 2000-yr of gold tradition  |  Graphic source & courtesy - economictimes.com

Questioning the anti-gold logic of the Govt apart, increasing customs duties from 2% to 6% will not change a 2000-yr of gold tradition | Graphic source & courtesy – economictimes.com

End of Bretton Woods: No fiat currency system has lasted for more than 75 years.

The Bretton-Woods system, pinned to the US dollar has morphed from a gold-based to an oil-based currency. In the last ten years, the petro-dollar surplus has decreased – and US debt has ballooned to US$17 trillion – 125% of US GDP. Add US consumer debt and corporate debt, and we are talking US debt at about 300% of US GDP.

Euro-Yuan Challenge: Euro-currency has not broken down. Not quite what Anglo-Saxon Media (ASM) has pushed us to believe. – in line with 2ndlook estimate of 2 years now. ASM also pushed the case of a Chinese hard-landing very hard. But the Chinese hard-landing is nowhere in sight. So, the Euro and Yuan are likely to increase their share in global trade. From nearly 90% of global trade, the US dollar share of trade has reduced to about 67%. As it gets close to 50%, (probably) in the next 7-10 years, we may see a greater role for gold as an objective cross-currency index. Gold trade will only increase in importance.

Rise Of The Underworld: Will we want to give the Indian narcotics-gold underworld a greater hold over the Indian economy – like it was 25 years ago. Like the narcotics-gold underworld dominates Pakistan or Afghanistan now.

Safety Net: In the face of global or local dislocations (due to drought, floods, earthquakes, war, epidemics) private gold reserves can help families to restart lives. Even without State support.

Much of the reason for Indian economic equilibrium over the last 65 years, has been the India’s private reserves of gold.

Let’s See Action

Covering a gap of US$35 billion means looking at three big targets of US$12 trillion each.

1. Increase oil refinery exports (set up two more Jamnagar type refineries), increase domestic crude output (split ONGC into four parts?) and shrink oil imports.

2. Fund 10,000 SMEs with credit for expansion and growth to add about US$12-US$15 trillion of output. Privatize city bus services and privatize train operations.

3. Sign a Third-World rupee-trade FTA, which will boost exports to the Third World by US$12 billion and replace dollar imports with rupee imports.

It is these measures which will yield answers to the Indian CAD problem – instead of curbs, taxes and barriers to gold imports.

But then …

What was on the Plate?

In October last year, the US Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner and the Chief of the US Federal Reserve were on a two-day India visiten-route to Tokyo to attend some IMF and World Bank meetings.

Any bets on Geither and Bernanke’s main item on the India-visit agenda was gold?

Anyone?

The depth of the global gold market with a large Indian diaspora makes it easy to avoid excessive taxation - a short step from criminal smuggling.  |   Graphic source & courtesy - economictimes.com

The depth of the global gold market with a large Indian diaspora makes it easy to avoid excessive taxation – a short step from criminal smuggling. | Graphic source & courtesy – economictimes.com

Aww … another conspiracy theory?

John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA hosts since WWII the Warfare Analysis Laboratory – a part of its Applied Physics Lab. Used frequently by the Pentagon, in 2009, a unique war simulation was conducted here.

Not a nuclear or a conventional war, not even a biological or chemical war – but an economic and financial war. Simulating how an Economic Hit Man from other countries would operate, its effect on the US and the US response.

Two years after this simulation, one of the participants, James Rickards has published a book outlining some of the presumably basic models used in the exercize.

All these actions point towards a declining US using more desperate means to stay on top.

For how long?

Rising Chorus … Within and Without

All these points are well-known and understood within sections of GoI. By the Indian and global press.

Some extracts below.

Gold smuggling has acquired a new lustre with imposition of higher import duties on the yellow metal to curb rising demand, financial intelligence agencies have said, warning of a sudden resurgence of underworld activity.

Import duty on gold has risen from nil to 6% in the last 12 months. Incidents of smuggling have seen an upswing recently.

Officials in the finance ministry fear that return of gold smuggling will revive Mumbai’s underworld, which thrived on the practice until the economic liberalisation of the early 1990s.

They say a rise in the illegal gold imports will undermine the government’s strategy to curb gold imports to check a runaway rise in current account deficit, which touched a record high of 5.4% of GDP in the first half of 2012-13.

Some officials said the recent confiscations point to a growing trend of organised networks engaging “carriers”, who are paid between 10,000 and 25,000 for each trip. They said illegal transfer of gold has become more lucrative for these carriers since the hike in import duties, adding that many of them are now resorting to rectal smuggling.

Agencies also fear that smugglers may take to the sea route once again.The authorities say they have seized Rs165 crore worth of gold between April and December 2012, an 11-fold increase over the seizures in the year-ago period.

India, the world’s biggest consumer of gold, imported $56.4 billion worth of the metal in 2011-12, accounting for nearly half of its current account deficit.

The country has already imported gold worth $38 billion this fiscal, prompting the government to raise import duties again by 200 basis points to 6%. Current account deficit widened to a record 5.4% of GDP in the first half of 2012-13, with higher gold and crude oil imports increasing the country’s dependence on foreign capital inflows

via Financial intelligence agencies sound alert on gold smuggling – The Times of India.

Gold smugglers have stepped out of 1970s’ Bollywood potboilers into present day reality with the government raising taxes to curb the import of the yellow metal.

According to data from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), an agency that monitors economic offences, the incidence of gold smuggling in the current fiscal year has zoomed at least eight times compared with the corresponding period the previous year.

As the government struggles to rein in a raging current account deficit that is likely to cross 4% of the national economic output this fiscal, it has increased the import duty on the precious metal thrice since last year.

India’s gold imports, (are) next only to oil imports in terms of value.

The increase in import duty on gold has clearly led to a price differential between Indian and international gold, and that, in turn, has led to an increase in smuggling. Spot gold prices here are as much as 5.7% higher than in Dubai, compared with a difference of 0.1% in 2008. Typically, gold is smuggled into India from Dubai.

In the first 10 months of 2012-13, till January, DRI has seized gold worth Rs.60.17 crore (200kg at the current price of gold) and cracked 36 cases of smuggling. In the corresponding period in 2011-12, it had seized gold worth Rs.7.42 crore and cracked 15 cases.

To be sure, the number is almost insignificant when compared with the value of India’s gold imports—$38 billion (around Rs.2.03 trillion today) till December.

And it refers only to seizures and the gold smuggled into India could be much more; DRI officials admit that they detect about one in every 10 cases.

“The duty rate hike in phases, from Rs.100 per 10g to 6% (about Rs.1,800 at the current price) now, has not really dampened the demand. In fact, raising of duty has only enhanced the profit margin of smugglers,” said a senior DRI official who did not want to be identified.

While the government’s actions are intended at discouraging import of physical gold, DRI and customs officials say the recent 2 percentage point increase in the import duty on the precious metal will make it difficult for enforcement agencies to contain bulk gold smuggling in India.

On 22 January, India raised the import duty on gold to 6% from 4%.

After restrictions were lifted on gold imports and a few commercial banks were allowed to import gold and sell the yellow metal to jewellers and exporters in 1997, the spread between international and local market prices shrank dramatically, but with the rise in import duty, it is now widening.

Modus operandi

Explaining the modus operandi of gold smugglers, the DRI official said most of the smuggled gold is brought into India through air mostly from Dubai and Thailand, concealed in either cabin baggage or different parts of the body. People carrying this gold are called carriers, or mules, and they work in pairs. Going by the data collected by DRI, on average, each mule carries at least 5kg of gold per trip.

According to the DRI official, the return on investment for a smuggler in a year amounts to as much as 200% for such trips.

Here’s how the math works: At the current price, it costs Rs.1.44 crore to buy 5kg of gold in Dubai. The cost of an air ticket, hotel expenses and the commission of the mule plus hawala fees to send the money to Dubai after the gold is sold in India comes to another Rs.2 lakh. The same gold can be sold in Mumbai for Rs.1.51 crore, netting the smuggler Rs.5 lakh for a single trip.

Such an operation typically takes four days. Theoretically, this means a smuggler can churn his initial investment seven times a month. Over a year, that means a profit of Rs.4.2 crore on the original Rs.1.5 crore investment.

“As of now, gold smuggling is limited to air passengers and carriers, which has limitations in terms of volume and cost. The bulk smuggling channels (by sea and land) have not revived, but the recent increase in customs duty will provide the profit differential to revive it,” said a senior customs official who too did not want to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue. This person added that it would be impossible for enforcement agencies to contain smuggling through these routes.

Customs officials also claim their job has been made tougher by a 2011 Supreme Court ruling under which individuals arrested for violating the Customs Act can be released on bail. The apex court’s decision, both officials mentioned above said, has taken away the powers of the customs department to deter smuggling.

via Gold smuggling on the rise as imports turn costlier – Livemint

For some, it’s almost Haji Mastan time again.

There has been a 10-fold increase in the number of gold smuggling cases in recent months. Between April and June this year, authorities impounded gold worth 940 crore in some 200 cases of smuggling, up 272% over the same period last year, finance ministry data shows.

Smugglers make money if they can successfully avoid paying duties – 4% customs duty and other taxes, which add 5%-plus to the landed cost of gold.

via Weak rupee makes gold smuggling, bets attractive – Economic Times.

An increase in the import duty on gold, the third in less than a year, is expected to lead to a rise in smuggling of the precious metal into the country. On Monday, the government hiked the import duty on gold from 4% to 6%.

Air customs officials speculate that more gold will be smuggled from abroad through airports as import duty is now at its steepest.

There has been an increase in smuggling of gold through Chennai from Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries over the past three years.

This is the third time the government has raised import duty on gold. In March 2012, the government doubled import duty on standard gold from 2% to 4%. In January 2012, it increased duty from 1% to 2%. Of the 800 tonnes of gold that India imports every year, one-fourth is accounted for by Tamil Nadu.

While customs officials are apprehensive that they will have to be on their toes, bullion traders are unhappy that high duty will push up attempts to smuggle in gold by evading taxes and will lead to loss of jobs for local goldsmiths.

Jewellers say smugglers, couriers and middleman can make as much as Rs 1,800 for every 10g of gold imported (6% of Rs 30,000).

“With imports of 50kg, the margins can be as high as Rs 1 crore,” said a jeweller who did not want to be named. Jewellers say the government has seized close to 900kg of unaccounted gold in the last year.

via Import duty hike to up gold smuggling – Times Of India.

Gold smuggling is not new to India; in fact, many villains of Bollywood movies in the late 1970s were often smugglers. One of the most memorable Bollywood smugglers was Lion (pronounced Loyan) played by actor Ajit in movies like Kalicharan and Yaadon Ki Baraat. Even superstar Ambitabh Bachchan was a smuggler in his blockbuster movie in 1975 Deewar.

“In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the price of gold in India was 65% higher than in other countries,” wrote Douglas Farah, a national security consultant in the U.S., in a paper in 2004.

Citing a report by Interpol from the mid-1990s, Mr. Farah said that gold worth $4.2 billion was smuggled into India in 1991.

In the early 1990s, as part of India’s economic liberalization, the Indian government removed the restrictions on importing gold.

This eventually helped lower the price gap between prices in India and abroad.

If the proposed duties do indeed lead to more smuggling, though it would not appear in India’s balance sheet, it could continue to pressure the Indian rupee, which has been losing value against the U.S. dollar in recent months.

via Gold Smuggling Redux in India? – India Real Time – WSJ.

The government has raised customs duty on gold in bid to curb imports that are largely responsible for the high current account deficit and weakening currency, but a spurt in smuggling threatens to undermine its efforts.

“The operation is currently on…there was intelligence on a sudden jump in gold jewellery imports from Thailand,” said an official with the organisation privy to the development.

India has a free trade agreement with Thailand that allows gold jewellery imports at a concessional customs duty of 1 per cent.

The duty rates for imports through normal channels are much higher after a steep increase in this year’s budget and goes up to 10 per cent on standard gold bars, gold coins and non-standard gold stand, making Thailand an attractive place for purchases.

Though, stringent rules of origin norms are in place in the FTA to ensure that any goods taking advantage of the concessional duty regime undergoes a substantial value addition in Thailand, DRI is alleging large-scale misuse of these norms by importers.

According to DRI sources, the rules of origin under the FTA envisage a value addition of up to 20 per cent but since gold rates in Thailand are at the same levels at India and value addition can only push up the cost of goods and render gold jewellery imports uncompetitive.

Customs authorities had impounded gold worth 942 crore in some 200 cases of smuggling bettween April and June this year, up 272 per cent on 243 crore corresponding period last fiscal that involved 20 cases.

via DRI cracks down on gold smuggling from Thailand – Economic Times.


Indian fake currency trail gets hotter

Posted in British Raj, Business, India, Indo Pak Relations, Islamic Demonization by Anuraag Sanghi on January 17, 2012

A Rs.100 Pakistani Haj Note - for use in Saudi Arabia only.  |  Image source State Bank of Pakistan - sbp.gov.pk  |  Click for larger image.

A Rs.100 Pakistani Haj Note - for use in Saudi Arabia only. | Image source State Bank of Pakistan - sbp.gov.pk | Click for larger image.

When India counterfeited Pakistani currency

For a few years after Partition, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was the common authority for India and Pakistan until 30th September 1948.

‘Pakistan (Monetary System and Reserve Bank) Order, 1947′ allowed for Indian Notes to be modified for use in Pakistan and to be placed into circulation from 1st April 1948. The modification to the Indian Notes consists of two inscriptions on the front of the Notes “Government of Pakistan” in English at top, while “Hakumat-e-Pakistan” at bottom of the white area reserved for viewing the watermark were inscribed. The inscribed Notes were in the denomination of 1, 2, 5, 10 and 100 Rupee. It is important to note that these inscriptions are due to modifications to the printing plates and they are not ‘overprints’.

From 1948-1956, Pakistan independently issued different currencies of varying denominations. In 1956, came news from the Pakistani Joint Secretary Cabinet to the Pakistani Cabinet

that according to some reliable source, there was an offically (sic) sponsored organization in Calcutta which were forging Pakistani currency notes on a big scale, that were in circulation in India.

In this connection it was suggested that the new series of Pakistani Bank Notes with a portrait of Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah should introduced. In this regard the 100 Rupee Note was issued on 24th December, 1957. It was predominantly green in color, a portrait of Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, watermark of Mr. Jinnah and a security thread on front and the illustration of the Badshahi Mosque on back of the Note were introduced. (via State Bank of Pakistan – Museum & Art Gallery; Pakistani Currency).

Soon afterwards, to print Pakistani currency independently of India, Pakistan contracted with British companies – mainly, Thomas De La Rue & Company.

This name,  De La Rue, rings a bell. A loud bell.

History repeats

Now De La Rue is the same company that supplies currency paper to RBI also for Indian currency notes. Curiously, the specific paper that RBI uniquely specified also landed up in the hands of Pakistani counterfeiters, who have released fake currency worth hundreds of crores.

Cut back to 1956 Pakistan.

Remember that 1956 was also the year when Pakistan became a republic – and the first constitution of Pakistan was adopted. Governor General Sahibzada Sayyid Iskander Ali Mirza (a Shia Muslim from Bengal, direct descendant of Mir Jaffer) became the first President of the Pakistani Republic. Two years later, came Ayub Khan’s coup that started the tradition of Army rule in Pakistan.

To an emerging Pakistan in 1956, after a 9 year struggle to write a constitution, when confronted with news that its economy was threatened by fake currency from its estranged neighbour, India, was confirmation of its worst fears. After the 1949 British devaluation of the pound, the Pakistani rupee (like the Indian rupee), was overvalued. To overcome the hawala and smuggling threats to the Pakistani economy, Pakistan introduced a special currency – the Haj Notes. The counterfeit currency problem (reportedly centered in Kolkatta) added to Pakistani woes.

Some 50 years later, India, an emerging economy, making its mark on the world in the 2000-2010, discovered that Pakistan was counterfeiting Indian currency.

Something fishy here.

A man in Zimbabwe goes shopping. Hyper-inflation has made things difficult for Zimbabwe.  |  Image source - smh.com.au  |  Click for source image.

A man in Zimbabwe goes shopping. Hyper-inflation has made things difficult for Zimbabwe. | Image source - smh.com.au | Click for source image.

Parallels & Patterns

The common factor between the 1956 Pakistani problem of counterfeit currency – and in India now, is the De La Rue company.

Currency paper technology is not available off-the-shelf – or the kind of paper that any one can buy from the corner stationery shop or the local paper mill. India did not have the paper technology in 1956, and Pakistan does not have the technology today to make counterfeit currency.

There are roughly about 12 companies, mostly European, in the world that dominate the security printing business – and these are monopoly businesses. These companies work closely with their respective parent governments – and clients governments.

Gaddafi’s regime was starved of currency notes, before his downfall. He could not pay his soldiers. Robert Mugabe’s regime has been without a national currency, due to sanctions imposed by the German government on the German company, Giesecke & Devrient. When the German company resisted sanctions against Mugabe, the Anglo-Saxon press, started a smear campaign against the German company. There have been thin reports about Jura JSP, an Austrian company, replacing the German company, which may help Zimbabwe to tide over the currency crisis.

All the while, some British companies are keep a hold over some critical Zimbabwe assets..

The De La Rue scandal

In 2010-2011, RBI which imports 95% of its security paper requirements, did not invite De La Rue for negotiations.

Why? RBI is not saying anything.

RBI in most years was a huge chunk of De La Rue’s business – and in most years, about 25% of De La Rue’s profits.

What is De La Rue saying about loss of RBI business?

Nothing except, that it has sacked its CEO – John Hussey, a De La Rue veteran of 27 years. De La Rue’s French rival, François-Charles Oberthur Fiduciaire, or simply Oberthur Technologies, promptly picked up Hussey as an ‘advisor.’

Shortly after that, De La Rue also confirmed that the British Serious Fraud Office (SFO) had been called in – and two other senior executives, Mark Jeffery (Director – Manufacturing) and Jonathan Garside (Director –Sales), also resigned.

So, what happened?

The paper that RBI specified is not the paper that De La Rue supplied. De La Rue wrongly self-certified this inappropriate quality paper, to be as per RBI specs.

Coming to brass-tacks

The British press, hinted much and said little. De la Rue, RBI’s biggest supplier of many decades, was shut out from recent tenders. And later denied security clearance, also. So much for the story and intrigue.

All this still does not answer an important question.

This was not an accident – or an aberration? 1956 in Pakistan; and in 2006, in India. John Hussey, the previous CEO of De La Rue, instead of hiding his face in disgrace, has joined  French company as a valuable ‘advisor.’

Obviously De La Rue is protected.

Who is protecting De La Rue?


2ndlook blogs have written extensively and covered this subject in the past. For more click at previous posts below

India finders, British keepers

Posted in British Raj, Gold Reserves, History, India by Anuraag Sanghi on November 17, 2011
SS Fort Stikine (Image source and courtesy - www.spoki.lv). Click for larger image.

SS Fort Stikine (Image source and courtesy - http://www.spoki.lv). Click for larger image.

April 14th 1944

Exactly 32 years after the Titanic sank (April 14-15th 1912), the SS Fort Stikine blew up at the Mumbai docks.

The story begins earlier – when SS Fort Stikine steamed out from Birkenhead in Britain on February 24th 1944. With valuable war time material. Gliders for air-force, ammunition, guns, etc. After unloading some cargo at Karachi, it set sail for Mumbai (then Bombay). At Mumbai the ship blew up. An anti-submarine gun, weighing a 30 tons was thrown a clear 500 feet away. It took some 7000 soldiers and fire fighters more than a week to douse that fire.

Why the secrecy

This explosion, now made out to be an accident, was hushed up – and a cloak of secrecy thrown over it. Camera footage from Indian film-makers was seized. Government clamped censorship. The blowing up of the SS Fort Stikine was made out to be a mystery.

What was the British Raj trying to suppress?

Was it incompetence that the British Raj was hiding? After all, the Bombay Docks had seen 60 fires in the 1939-1944 period. Or was it sabotage- Japanese hand suspected.

After the explosion. At the Mumbai docks.   |  Image source and courtesy - mumbaimirror.com

After the explosion. At the Mumbai docks. | Image source and courtesy - mumbaimirror.com

Gold made the wheel go round

The ship carried a consignment of explosives (1395 tons) – and gold for the Reserve Bank of India. SS Fort Stikine ‘s manifest did not list any gold or explosives – and the nature of the cargo was probably known only to the captain of the ship. The explosion rained gold bars for miles around.

The secret was out.

One thing was clear

This explosion disrupted the British Raj mint in Mumbai (Bombay then). Without gold coins, the British Raj was sunk – and two million Indian soldiers were needed badly in WWII. These soldiers, paid handsomely by the British Raj, with gold extracted from the Indian peasantry, was the spine that held the British Empire upright.

When the SS Fort Stikine blew up in the Mumbai Docks, gold bars rained all over the port. Later when some gold bars were recovered, the British claimed that this was their bullion. The Indian Govt. quietly handed over this gold – recovered by Indian Navy divers after Indian independence.

Heads … you lose … tails, I win

Recently, another small find of some 10-tola bars (125 gm) has been assigned to the SS Stikine cargo. Though other earlier reports mention that the bullion cargo was in the form of mint-sized 25 kg gold bars – and not retail 10-tola bars.

Far way from the Indian coast, off the Irish coast, in cold Atlantic waters, another WWII wreck lay, with a silver cargo, in its hold – at the bottom of the Atlantic. Silver that was being carried from India to Britain.

Fort Stikine blows up
Fort Stikine blows up

Britain claimed that this silver was British silver – and has disposed it off in a manner that they deem fit. I have not been able to locate any report if it has consulted the Indian Govt.

In December 1940, a British steamship bound for Liverpool left Calcutta laden with precious cargo, including up to 240 tons of silver worth an estimated $210 million in today’s dollars. Operating for the United Kingdom’s Ministry of War Transport, which requisitioned merchant ships during World War II, SS Gairsoppa joined a military convoy and headed northward into waters swarming with German submarines. On February 14, 1941, dwindling coal reserves and stormy weather forced the lagging vessel to break away from its escorts and make for the port of Galway in western Ireland.

Three days later, a Nazi U-boat commanded by the decorated German captain Ernst Mengersen launched a torpedo that ripped through Gairsoppa’s steel hull, toppling its foremast and destroying its wireless antenna. Unable to send out a distress call, the surviving members of the ship’s 85-strong crew came under machine gun fire as they scrambled onto lifeboats. Their burning craft, built in 1919 and designed for commerce rather than warfare, sank within 20 minutes, disappearing into the frigid depths of the North Atlantic roughly 300 miles west of Ireland. (via Silver-Laden World War II Shipwreck Discovered).

70 years later, RBI remains true to its DNA

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, Environment, European History, Gold Reserves, History, Media by Anuraag Sanghi on January 22, 2009
An bankrupt West is a bad economic model to follow. RBI in the last 3-5 years has shown some independence in policy matters - finally. (Cartoon courtesy - bhra.files.wordpress.com). Click for larger image.

An bankrupt West is a bad economic model to follow. RBI in the last 3-5 years has shown some independence in policy matters - finally. (Cartoon courtesy - bhra.files.wordpress.com). Click for larger image.

there is a curious aspect to the Indian economic System (defined as commentators, policy makers, and academicians). The System systematically thinks in a skewed fashion, and unlike any other System in the world. In particular, it is trigger happy to bring the economy to a screeching halt by raising interest rates, but asleep at the wheel when the economy is in desperate shape — e.g. confidence at historic lows, industrial growth at zero, and exports diving over a cliff. (via Surjit Bhalla: Lazy banking at its finest).

It is not so curious Mr.Bhalla. You only have to look at the history of RBI formation and its objective. Fact is RBI has not outgrown its colonial DNA.

April Fool Joke – The RBI

On April 1st, 1934, while the ‘Squeeze India’ campaign was under execution – and being choreographed by Montagu Norman, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and Lord Willingdon, RBI, India’s banking authority was set up. From that April Fool’s day till now, RBI character has not changed. It remains isolated, out of touch with the India – and looks at India through colonial viewing glasses.

First things, first …

RBI and the Colonial India Government initiated many reports on the ‘condition’ of the Indian economy. Based on these reports, they passed many of the laws restricting money lending activities. These reports - Central Banking Enquiry Committee (CBEC) report (1929) and its associated Provincial Banking Enquiry Committee reports (of Assam, Bombay, Burma, Ceylon, Central Provinces, Bengal, Punjab, et al) of which the Madras Provincial Banking Enquiry Committee (MPBEC) report is cited by lazy academics and out-moded bureaucratsas authoritative – even in post-colonial era.

Western economies have been hiding their economic stagnation for the last 10 years by handing out loans to voters, industry and banks. For how long can this system work? Cartoon by Michael Ramirez. Click for larger image.

Western economies have been hiding their economic stagnation for the last 10 years by handing out loans to voters, industry and banks. For how long can this system work? Cartoon by Michael Ramirez. Click for larger image.

Based on these reports co-ordinated by the RBI, Debt Conciliation Acts were passed between 1933 and 1936 by the governments of Assam, Bengal, Central Provinces and Berar, Madras and Punjab; the Punjab Regulation of Accounts Act (1930) and the Debtors Protection Acts of 1935 and other such burdensome laws buried the money lender in mountains of paperwork and licenses. These laws required money lenders to comply with extensive and prolonged compulsory licensing and registration – and extensive recording of transactions and accounts.

What these laws achieved was what was desired – a license for police and other ‘inspectors’ to start an extortion racket from money lenders (these days called corruption). A bureaucrat from colonial Punjab, Malcolm Darling (1925) shedding crocodile tears stated “the Indian peasant is born in debt, lives in debt and dies in debt” became a by line for tarring the money lender – while the cause was extractive, colonial revenue practices.

Options foreclosed

While the world was reeling under a crisis of the Great Depression, these restrictions on money lending foreclosed the liquidity option for the Indian peasant, which would have averted the gold outflow from India and the impoverishment of the Indian peasant. With this legalized persecution, money lenders’ activities were curtailed all over India.

RBI joined in this hounding of the money lenders – which continues to this day. The Bengal Burma link of the ages was broken. Chettiar money lenders were thrown out of Burma. From being a granary of Asia, Burma started declining – and there was no rice for exports. Result – The Bengal Famine of 1943. Tally – 40-50 lakh deaths. Similarly, the role of Chettiars in Singapore was wiped clean.

Subhash Chandra Bose's diplomatic initiatives left the British War efforts nervous and anxious. (Image sources - hindustantimes.com). Click for source image.

Subhash Chandra Bose's diplomatic initiatives left the British War efforts nervous and anxious. (Image sources - hindustantimes.com). Click for source image.

After the fall of Singapore, and the rapid Japanese advance, with Subhash Chandra Bose in the vicinity, a revolt by Bengal would have had catastrophic effect on the colonial administration. Howard Fast, in his novel ‘The Pledge’ believes that the Bengal Famine was deliberate creation – possibly to weaken the local population.

Elephants in the room

Firstly, the answer to your curiosity cannot come from the West. And since, the Indian English press (especially), depends on the West for cues, they miss out some vital elements. For instance, how the Indian economy was used to meet Britain’s Post WW1 liabilities. To ‘dampen’ gold demand for India, the Indian rupee was put on fixed overvalued rate vis-a-vis the sterling.

Indian exports crashed, imports ballooned. Indian accounts would be settled at ‘official’ silver prices, with inflated silver released by the US under the Pittman Act. Gold prices were deflated – and Indians would therefore have to pay more in gold. Thus with with a combination of inflated silver price, deflated gold price, high interest rates and an overvalued Indian rupee, the Indian economy was strangled. Few Western writers or books identify this - unwittingly, or deliberately.

RBI was a pawn in this game – and it remains true to its DNA.

India funded the post WW1 recovery

The mechanics and the development of this plan are laid out in a better book, John Bullion’s Empire by By G. Balachandran. This book traces how much of India’s poverty was a result of economic policies between the two World Wars co-ordinated by these four central bankers.

On October 27th, 1931, the Ramsey Macdonald led “National” Government (Conservatives and Liberals coalition, fearful of the rising Labour Party) in Britain won a huge majority of 554 MPs of 615. The economic crisis of September 1931 (misnamed as the Indian Currency Crisis) was a result of this economic policy which reduced Indian economic activity – resulting in bankruptcy of the Colonial India Government.

Parallel Great Depression era problems in the US, the Weimar Republic problems – and other issues pushed this ‘National’ government to ram through a series of measures (page 130-131) that inflated silver prices, depressed gold prices and raised interest rates in India. The Indian rupee was pegged at a high exchange rate vis-a-vis the sterling. Indian exports crashed. To ensure that Indian farmers had no options, Indian money lenders were regulated and licensed into paralysis. Further the Lees Mody Pact, gave few options to the Indian producers.

Indians were paid, with inflated and abundant silver stock, instead of gold. This silver was the same silver released by the Pittman Act. The silver buffer solution to the gold drain to India was seen as the “only buffer to protect Western gold reserves against the Indian drain (was) a silver buffer.” Of course, later the British Raj decided to settle Indian debts with promissory notes – and not even silver. It was this Indian ‘sacrifice’ which enabled the recovery of the West.

The yawning trench between talk and walk makes Western economiuc theory suspect.

The yawning trench between talk and walk makes Western economiuc theory suspect.

Crash in silver prices

New mines and increased silver production saw a crash in silver prices. US silver coinage was being depreciated due to increasing supplies of silver. On the other side, Britain had a large debt due to WW1. Britain and America stuck a deal at the cost of the Indian subjects of the British Raj. The US passed the Pittman Act which mandated silver sales at more than a dollar per ounce – double the 50c per ounce prevailing price of silver. Britain agreed to settle all Indian debts with silver. Gold prices were deflated. Interest rates in India were increased. Restrictions on gold imports on were placed and gold demand in India was ‘normalized.’

Impoverishment of India

With crashing exports and increased imports, the Indian citizenry had no option but to pay for all essentials and taxes with gold. As a quid pro quo, for this silver for gold scam, the US lent gold to Britain in 1926, which allowed Britain to revert back to the pre-War old standard.

Done over the protests by Gandhiji, trade bodies and merchants and threats of resignation by the Viceroy and his Executive Council , the resulting ‘money famine’ (page 155) had the Lord Willingdon ecstatically say ‘Indians are disgorging gold’ (page 156). Neville Chamberlain pitched in with his classic statement “The astonishing gold mine that we have discovered in India’s hordes has put us in clover.”

Looking back, it was clear that this achieved nothing but the impoverishment of India. In 1948, Montagu Norman had to admit that with these maneuvers “We achieved absolutely nothing, except that we collected a lot of money from a lot of poor devils and gave it to the four winds.”

The RBI was a vital element of this plan.

Ceterus paribus …

Today, in similar situation, the RBI, a colonial era body, continues with these colonial anti-Indian policies. They keep ever-greening and recycle colonial policies. Old laws with new labels and different wordings are made – with the same intent. Kill the money lender. While all this was happening, Indian agriculture and the peasant suffers.

The tragedy is that RBI is not alone. The IAS (a successor to the ICS) and the Planning Commission are the other two. Compare that with the brilliant track record of modern Indian regulators and organizations like the SEBI, TRAI.

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