Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Concern over ill-gotten gold bullion as price surges

Heists, such as one featured in Ocean's Eleven starring Brad Pitt (left) and George Clooney, could become more common. Photo / Supplied
Heists, such as one featured in Ocean's Eleven starring Brad Pitt (left) and George Clooney, could become more common. Photo / Supplied

The high price of gold will lead to more daring Ocean's Eleven Hollywood-type heists, says a New Zealand gold dealer.

"[Robberies] are starting to become more and more prevalent. And we'll probably see more of it as time goes on," said Mike O'Kane, head of bullion at New Zealand Mint.

"You read about real-world equivalents of the Ocean's Eleven-type movies ... we've seen a few of those in the last 10 years that you wouldn't have seen in the 1980s or 1990s."

Ocean's Eleven, a 2001 remake of the 1960 film of the same name, was based around the efforts of a group of criminals to simultaneously rob the Bellagio, the Mirage and the MGM Grand casinos in Las Vegas.

In 2000 the price of gold hit its lowest point since the 1980s, at just less than US$300 ($356) an ounce.

Its value climbed steadily but doubled in the year after the 2008 financial crisis, and was as high as about US$1920 an ounce last August.

However, Mr O'Kane said even if criminals melted down gold they would still have trouble selling it on for market prices as it would not be marked by a recognisable refinery or mint.

But there was still large enough demand to ensure an international black market for gold, silver and jewellery, he said. "A good example of that would be Vietnam. In Vietnam if you are to buy property, 90 per cent of the transactions are done in gold. And the other 10 per cent are actually done in US dollars.

"The key thing about it is it's liquid - you can take it anywhere in the world and sell it. People will buy it off you. The liquidity of it is a key element."

India had been a large market for gold, but China had become the world's largest gold market almost overnight.

- NZ Herald

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