This week we returned from a trip to the Eurozone where we met with a host of different people across many countries and several industries. All of the indicators we’re seeing – construction starts, bank lending, personal borrowing habits, economic growth, and even the (lack of) items in grocery store carts – suggest that Europe is on the brink, though as is generally the case, the average European has no clue what’s coming their way.
The most alarming situation we identified is one relating to the purchase of gold coins and bullion – specifically in the country of Austria – but one that will likely make its way across the EU if it hasn’t already. Unlike the United States, where gold and silver can be purchased through traditional methods like visiting a local dealer directly, or even placing an order on the internet, it is much more difficult to find a gold/silver dealer outside of Germany or Switzerland. As a result, those individuals interested in acquiring gold are left with purchasing directly from local bank branches.
Had you visited an Austrian bank three months ago, you would have had absolutely no problem purchasing a large quantity of gold/silver from the bank. You’d simply call the bank about 24 – 48 hours in advance, let them know you’re coming and how much you needed, and you’d personally pick up your order within a couple days.
A new trend in Austrian (and perhaps the rest of Europe’s) banking policies suggests that certain interested parties are attempting to control the sale and personal acquisition of gold/silver as safe haven assets. What we experienced first hand should be a wake up call for not just Europeans, but Americans as well.
The policy change was quiet, has not been reported by any media outlets that we’re aware of, and no mention of the new policies is made on the web sites of Austria’s largest banking institutions (though it is clear they vehemently comply with U.S. anti-money laundering measures and the Patriot Act)
According to the bank representatives and manager we spoke with, Austrian banks have now been ordered to restrict the sale of gold and silver bullion purchases and are limiting personal acquisitions of precious metals to 15,000€ (approximately $20,700 USD) at a time, or 11 ounces of gold at today’s prices.
Upon further discussion we learned that these policies were implemented over the course of the last 30 days, and they are now standard operating procedure. The reason given was the banks had come under pressure from EU, Austrian and U.S. officials, with this particular manager specifically citing U.S. money laundering initiatives and the EU’s Third EU Money Laundering Directive which was implemented across the zone in December of 2007.
The idea that these restrictions have been put in place as anti-money laundering measures is laughable. As we all know, if a drug cartel or other criminal organization wanted to launder money, they wouldn’t do it in person purchasing bullion coins at a local banking branch. They’d simply pick up the phone and contact a too-big-too-fail bank (video), as we’ve seen with the billions of dollars recently laundered through U.S. banks. You may remember there was very little reporting on this issue from mainstream media and it has been ignored by U.S. prosecutors.
As Austria is one of the more developed nations in the Euro Zone, there is a strong likelihood that they are not the sole country implementing these new policies – and that this has been, or soon will be, implemented across the entirety of EU nations.
To the average European and American this may not mean much. But if you’ve been paying attention to the events unfolding over the last several years, it’s becoming clear that the economies of the EU and US are under threat of a significant and potentially permanent financial collapse. This morning, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde was quoted as saying that the situation is so dire, “policymakers should stand ready, as needed, to take more action to support the recovery, including through unconventional measures.”
The new gold and silver purchasing limits would certainly qualify as unconventional, along with other recent proposed measures by EU officials and business leaders. One such proposal from Italian business leaders calls for all cash transactions over 300 Euro (About $400 USD) to be banned, and to be permitted only in electronic format.
The global trend across industrialized nations for the last twenty years has been to move towards a cashless society, but one that still utilizes centrally planned currencies. While central banks, large institutional funds and wealthy private investors across the world continue to buy up gold, governments seem to be moving quickly to restrict the ability of average people to do the same – and they are rapidly implementing policies to either restrict or track these types of transactions.
Many cities around the country, such as Houston, TX, have passed identification requirements that force sellers of precious metals to present a valid form of ID at the time of sale. Like Europe, the U.S. is expeditiously implementing direct methods of tracking these transactions, as well as indirect methods that target those who may be engaging in suspicious activities, namely using cash, as per FBI and Homeland Security bulletins issued last month.
The noose is tightening. Governments, large financial institutions and political chess players know exactly where real value exists. And it’s certainly not in the currencies that are being printed with reckless abandon.