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57. Final Report, Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold, Brussels (September 13, 1998)


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COMMISSION TRIPARTITE

POUR LA RESTITUTION DE L'OR MONETAIRE

TRIPARTITE COMMISSION

FOR THE RESTITUTION OF MONETARY GOLD

 

Rue d'Arlon 85

1040 Bruxelles

Tel (02) 287 62 11

 

 

 

THE FINAL REPORT

 

 

1. The Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold has the honour to submit its final Report to the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and France.

2. In view of the length of time since the establishment of the Tripartite Commission and the submission of its first confidential Report to the three Governments in 1971, it may be useful to provide a very brief summary of the first twenty-five years which were covered comprehensively in the 1971 Report and to report on the Tripartite Commission activities from 1971 to 1998.


The Genesis of the Tripartite Commission

3. The Tripartite Commission had its origins in the Paris Conference on Reparation of 1945 attended by the Representatives of the Governments of Albania, the United States of America, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Greece, India, Luxembourg, Norway, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, the Union of South Africa and Yugoslavia. The Agreement on Reparation was signed on 14 January 1946. Austria (4 November 1947), Italy (16 December 1947) and Poland (6 July 1949) subsequently adhered to the arrangement for the restitution of monetary gold set out in Part III of the Agreement. This Part of the Agreement, entitled "Restitution of Monetary Gold," (see Annex A) provided that all the monetary gold found in Germany by the Allied Forces, and any monetary gold recovered from third countries to which it was transferred from Germany should be pooled for distribution as restitution to claimant countries in proportion to the respective losses of gold through looting or wrongful removal to Germany. The Governments of the United States of America, France and the United Kingdom were to receive claims and distribute the gold. In order to implement Part III of the Agreement, the three Governments established, on 27 September 1946, the Tripartite Commission for the Restitution of Monetary Gold. Its establishment was announced in the Department of State Bulletin, Le Journal de la R�publique Francaise and The London Gasette (Annex B).

4. For the sake of convenience, the Tripartite Commission was established in Brussels in co-location with the Inter-Allied Reparation Agency (IARA). The first Commissioners were concurrently also the three Governments' representatives on the IARA. However, the Tripartite Commission was constitutionally separate from and independent of the Agency. The status of the Tripartite Commission as an international organization attracting privileges and immunities in respect of its official functions was recognized in Belgian law on 1 August 1952; this law being retroactive to 27 September 1946. (See Annex C) The Commissioners and the Secretary General of the Tripartite Commission were also specifically accorded the appropriate privileges and immunities. Lists of the Commissioners, their Deputies and Alternates and of Secretaries General from 1971 to 1998 are attached. (Annex D)

5. The former Soviet Union played no part in the Paris Conference or in the subsequent activities of the Tripartite Commission, having at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945 renounced all claims to gold recovered by the Allied Forces in the Western zones of Germany. For their part, the Western allies did not apparently seek to discover whether any monetary gold was recovered by the Soviet Union in its Zone of occupation in Germany or elsewhere.

The Gold Pool

6. In a remarkably short period of time, a considerable quantity of looted gold was taken into custody by the Allied authorities or identified as having been deposited in third countries. By July 1948, a total of 9,849,169 ounces of gold in bars, coins or pieces had been deposited with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Bank of England or was still held at the Foreign Exchange Depository in Frankfurt by the U.S. military authorities. The grand total in the gold rose further, to 10,816,223.863 ounces by December 1974, and in 1996 another two bars of gold, weighing net 797.539 ounces of fine gold were added (see paragraphs 20 and 21 below), making the total for the gold pool of 10,817,021.402 ounces. However, the share of gold coins received by Albania on 29 October 1996 proved to contain a minute quantity of counterfeit, albelt gold, coins. The final total for the gold pool had therefore to be adjusted to 10,817,021.139 ounces, equivalent to 336,446.0667 kilograms (32.1507465 ounces = 1 kilogram). The gold pool was declared closed by the three Governments on 13 July 1998.

Claims

7. On 13 March 1947, The Tripartite Commission issued a questionnaire to potential claimant countries seeking information which would allow it to make awards from the gold pool on a proportional basis. Claims were submitted in due course by Albania, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and Yugoslavia. They amounted to 23,648,411.502 ounces. However, the total of claims eventually validated after detailed examination by the Tripartite Commission amounted to 16,527,422.101 ounces, which was still considerably more than the total amount of gold recovered by the Western Allies for the gold pool.

The Preliminary Distribution of Gold.


8. It became clear by the middle of 1947 that there was an urgent need to distribute some of the gold to meet the requirements of the claimant Governments and it was decided by the three Governments that a preliminary distribution of gold should be made even before the totality of claims could be fully considered and adjudicated upon. Accordingly, rough calculations were made by the Tripartite Commission of the amounts of gold likely to be attributed in due course to each claimant Government and between October 1947 and November 1950 a total of 8,558,855.6413 ounces of gold was distributed to Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Yugoslavia. The actual distribution of the share attributed to Albania was delayed because of a counter-claim by Italy to most of the gold in question. That to Greece was delayed for purely practical reasons, because the amount concerned was very small. Poland did not participate in the preliminary distribution because its claim was not properly formulated until 1950. The details appear in the 1971 Report.


9. By November 1950, therefore, over 80% of the eventual total gold pool had been distributed to the claimant Governments.

The Tripartite Commission's Adjudication of Claims


10. The Tripartite Commission's consideration of the claims submitted to it was completed and the adjudications all signed on 9 June 1958, except that for Czechoslovakia which was not signed until 20 February 1982. As stated in paragraph 7 above, the total amount of the claims validated by the Tripartite Commission was 16,527,422.101 ounces (514,060.2909 kgs). While much less than the total of original claims, this was nevertheless considerably more than the final total of 10,817,021.139 ounces (336,446.9667 kilograms) of gold recovered by the three Governments and placed in the gold pool.


The Second, "Quasi-final" Distribution of Gold

11. Following the finalization of the Tripartite Commission's adjudications, a second, "quasi-final" distribution of gold was undertaken. A total of 1,062,579.233 ounces was distributed to Austria, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Yugoslavia between June 1958 and June 1959. The details of this distribution appear in the 1971 Report. The Netherlands, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Albania presented problems, all different, which led to their distributions being delayed.


12. The Netherlands, as will be clear from the 1971 Report (pages 37 to 40 of Volume III), contested the Tripartite Commission's rejection of a significant part of its claim. Following lengthy discussions, it accorded the Netherlands a special hearing of its case in May 1963. After due consideration, the Tripartite Commission maintained its rejection of the relevant part of the Netherlands' claim and so informed the Netherlands in July 1965. The Netherlands Government did not respond for some time and the Commissioners decided to leave the initiative with that Government. In July 1972, the Minister of Finance of the Netherlands enquired about the delivery of the Netherlands' allocation. Information was immediately provided by the Secretary General. Eventually, in May and August 1973, the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York delivered to the Netherlands 78,102.499 ounces and 53,460.758 ounces of fine gold respectively, a total of 131,563.257 ounces as the Netherlands' second distribution.

13. Poland's claim, as will be seen from the 1971 Report (pages 29 to 33 of Volume III), was dealt with in two parts by the Tripartite Commission. The first Polish claim was rejected in toto. The second, in respect of gold originating in the former Free City of Danzig, was validated by the Tripartite Commission, but it decided in its adjudication of June 1958 that neither the Government of Poland nor any other Government had proved that it was entitled to claim in respect of the Danzig gold and that an appropriate share of the gold pool should be set aside in the custody of the three Governments pending resolution of the issue. The Polish Government protested at this decision. Eventually, in June 1976, the Tripartite Commission decided that as no other claimant had come forward and as the Polish People's Republic had exercised authority in Danzig for over thirty years, the gold should be delivered to the Government of Poland. A supplement to the original adjudication was signed by the three Commissioners. In August 1976, Poland received 50,237.827 ounces from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and 29,327.197 ounces from the Bank of England (a total of 79,565.024 ounces) in respect of the combined preliminary and quasi-final shares relating to Danzig.

14. In February 1982, Czechoslovakia received 263,939.461 ounces of gold from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and 327,633.729 ounces from the Bank of England, making a total of 591,573.190 ounces in respect of its quasi-final share. Finally, on 29 October 1996, Albania received 49,804.149 ounces of gold from the Bank of England in respect of its combined preliminary and quasi-final shares.

The Gold and Currency Accounts

(i) The Gold Accounts

15. In 1971, the Tripartite Commission held gold in two accounts. At the Federal Reserve Bank of New York it had a total of 432,921.144 ounces: 426,273.904 ounces in bars and 6,647.240 ounces in coins. At the Bank of England, the Commission held a total of 602,741.520 ounces: 153,452.377 ounces in bars and 449,289.520 ounces in coins. Following distributions to the Netherlands, Poland and Czechoslovakia, the sale of bars to finance the running costs of the Tripartite Commission and the acquisition of two gold bars from Germany, the state of the holdings before the distribution to Albania was:


FRBNY 65,283.098 ounces in bars
B of E 145,805.721 ounces in bars
18,635.641 ounces in coins

16. In 1956, the Tripartite Commission had examined the possibility of placing the gold remaining in the pool in an interest-bearing account, but subsequently learned that it was not feasible (see page 12 of Volume III of the 1971 Report) . In 1995, however, the Secretary General learned from the Bank of England that a small rate of interest could be obtained on gold deposited even on short term. After full consideration of the implications, and accepting that the gold which would in due course be returned to the Tripartite Commission would not be the gold which it had deposited, the Commissioners reached agreement on 30 January 1997 to place all the gold which it held in the Bank of England on interest-bearing deposit with the exception of the two Prussian State Mint bars (see paragraph 20 and 21 below). From February 1997 to June 1998 the interest earned on this account amounted to �364,915.09. This was placed in the Tripartite Commission's sterling account at the Bank of England.

(ii) The Currency Accounts

17. At the time of the 1971 Report, the Tripartite Commission held four currency accounts. At the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a small U.S. dollar account had been maintained for practical purposes. It remained untouched for many years until the winding-up of the Tripartite Commission when the U.S. $1,248.57 remaining were transferred to the Bank of England and used to augment the final shares to the claimant Governments.

18. At the Bank of England, there were two sterling accounts which were used as the main operating accounts: one was an interest-hearing deposit account into which were placed the proceeds of the sales of gold bars over the years. This account was used to feed the current account which funded expenditures in sterling such as gold storage charges at the Bank of England and also funded the current account held at the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company in Brussels which was used to meet the administrative expenses of the Tripartite Commission. When the Morgan Guaranty Trust ceased its "High Street" banking operations in Brussels in 1995, the Tripartite Commission avoided the expense of opening a new account in Brussels by thereafter using the Bank of England current account for all current expenditures. After all the gold had been distributed with the exception of the final share of the successor states to the former Yugoslavia, when the Commission was wound up, there remained �78.09 in the deposit account and

�350,044.46 in the current account. The total of �350,122.55 was then distributed pro rata to the claimant countries by cheque.

The Tripartite Commission's Addresses


19. At the time of the 1971 Report, the Tripartite Commission was housed at 9, rue de la Science. In 1973, it moved to an office in the British Embassy building at 28, Rue Joseph II. When the Embassy itself moved to a new building at 85, Rue d'Arlon in 1992, the Tripartite Commission moved with it, leasing an office formally from the Embassy.


The Recovery of Two Missing Gold Bars

20. In the early 1980s, two independent researchers(1) established that two gold bars which had formed part of a shipment from the Reichsbank in Berlin to a "safe area" in the south of Germany in the last weeks of the war had apparently not been included in the gold of this shipment which had in due course ended up in the Bank of England via the Foreign Exchange Depository in Frankfurt. It was eventually discovered that the bars were in the possession of the German financial authorities. Following protracted negotiations with the German Government, which was concerned not to find itself subject to claims for these bars from third parties, the bars were handed over to the U.S. Embassy in Bonn on 27 September 1996 (the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Tripartite Commission). They were then shipped to the Bank of England for incorporation into the gold pool.

21. The bars improperly bore the Prussian State Mint insignia and the date-stamp 1938. Such bars had not been acceptable in the past as good delivery bars on the London market. However, as they also bore the assay mark of the German specialist assayers, Degussa, for the year 1956, they were deemed acceptable. They weighed net 797.539 ounces of fine gold. The Reichsbank records show that these bars were originally Belgian Central Bank gold bars which had been looted by the Nazi regime, re-smelted by the Reichsbank and given false identification marking.

Claims on the Residual Gold Pool

22. In the summer of 1996, as an end to the Tripartite Commission's work was in sight, an upsurge in public interest in the question of looted gold and other assets belonging to victims of the Nazi regime focused attention on the fact that there would remain in the gold pool about five and a half tons of gold after Albania had received its preliminary and quasi-final distribution. Some Jewish organizations sought to have this residual gold pool donated in large part to these organizations to help finance activities for the benefit of victims of the Nazi regime or their descendants. They argued that some of the gold was not monetary but had been looted from individuals.

23. The British and U.S. Governments undertook research into their official achives, many of which had been available to the public for some years. While this research was carried out, the final distribution of the gold pool was delayed. The results of the Government's researches revealed that an unquantifiable but small amount of non-monetary gold might inadvertently have been placed in the gold pool. The Nazis often resmelted gold to conceal its origin.

24. At an enlarged meeting of the Tripartite Commission on 27 June 1997, in which representatives from capitals took part, it was agreed that the Tripartite Commission should launch the final distribution by informing the claimant Governments by diplomatic Note of the amount of gold due to them in the final distribution and that the Tripartite Commission was ready to proceed. Simultaneously, the three Governments would inform the claimant Governments by diplomatic Note of the findings of the British and U.S. researchers and suggest that they might wish to consider placing all or some of their final share in a fund being established to aid needy victims of Nazi persecutions. This exercise took place in early August when the Chairman and Secretary General of the Tripartite Commission called together the diplomatic representatives in Brussels of the claimant countries (with the exception of those of the successor states to the former Yugoslavia) and handed over copies of the diplomatic Notes referred to above.


The Activities of the Tripartite Commission 1971-1998

For much of the period post-1971 the Tripartite Commission was unable to undertake the distribution of gold while the resolution of problems outside its control was undertaken by the three Governments. The major pieces of business transacted by the Tripartite Commission were the distribution of gold to the Netherlands (1973), Poland (1976), Czechoslovakia (1982) and Albania (1996) and the final distribution and the winding up of the Tripartite Commission in 1998.

26. The Tripartite Commission met in formal session when business required, rather than regularly. It was not required to do so between May 1988 and June 1995, but Commissioners maintained contact. With the way open for the distribution to Albania of its preliminary and quasi-final shares and thereafter for the distribution of the final shares, the Tripartite Commission met with increasing frequency. Thus, the Tripartite Commission held 38 meetings from 1971 to 1988 (meetings No 183 of 3 March 1971 to No 220 of 25 May 1988) and 31 meetings from 1995 to its winding up in 1998 (meetings No 221 of 23 June 1995 to No 251 of 28 August 1998). The minutes of all the meetings of the Tripartite Commission, from meeting No 1 on 8 December 1946, appear in the archives of the Tripartite Commission.

 

 


The Final Distribution of Gold


27. Once Albania had received its preliminary and "quasi-final" shares and the decisions with respect to the claims to the remaining gold had been taken (see paragraphs 22 to 24 above), the Tripartite Commission was able to initiate the final distribution of the remaining 179,920.311 ounces of gold. Given the impossibility of dividing the gold bars exactly in accordance with the shares allotted, the final amounts comprised a mix of gold bullion and currency (pounds sterling). The final distributions took place from 22 April 1998 to 13 July 1998, as and when requested by the claimant countries; the Netherlands (22 April 1998); Belgium (30 April 1998); Austria (24 June 1998); Poland, the Czech Republic and Italy (25 June 1998); Greece, the Slovak Republic and Luxembourg (26 June 1998) and Albania (13 July 1998). The remaining share originally destined for the former Yugoslavia, amounting to 1,209.781 ounces of fine gold and pounds sterling 33,612.04, was retained in associated gold and sterling non interest-bearing accounts held by the three Governments at the Bank of England to await an arrangement between the successor states. As the closure of the Tripartite Commission approached, it advised the successor states by diplomatic Note of the situation and of the procedure to be followed in order to receive the remaining quantity of the monetary gold of the former Yugoslavia.

The Archives of the Tripartite Commission

28. The three Governments had agreed that the archives of the Tripartite Commission should be transferred immediately upon its closure to the Archives Nationales Fran�aises and be available immediately to the public. The archives include all the documents relating to each claimant country's claim, the Tripartite Commission's adjudication thereon and the distributions of gold made to each country, the minutes of all the meetings of the Tripartite Commission from 1946 to 1998; the 1971 Report to the three Governments, which includes all the adjudications and the history of the Tripartite Commission's proceedings up to 1971; the Final Report to the three Governments of 1998, files relating to the Commission's dealings with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Bank of England and the Banque de France; and "The Gold Book" - the ledger in which are recorded all the movements of gold into and out of the Tripartite Commission's accounts. (See Annex E,) Copies of all significant documents will be made available at the Public Records Office in London and the U.S. National Archives as soon as possible after the closure of the Tripartite Commission.

Tripartite Commission Staff

29. At the time of the 1971 Report to the three Governments, the Tripartite Commission's staff had been reduced considerably and consisted of no more than a Secretary General, his personal assistant and a staff member responsible for the archives and accounts. By the end of 1971, the personal assistant had retired without replacement, and the staff member was retained on a "short part-time basis". By 1974, the staff member was employed on the basis of ad hoc consultation, leaving the Secretary General, Colonel John Watson, as the sole remaining official of the Tripartite Commission. When Colonel John Watson fell ill in 1976, a successor was found in Mr. Colin Harris, who took office with effect from January 1977. Mr. Harris unfortunately died in office in the spring of 1992. The three Commissioners decided to leave the position vacant until there seemed to be a likelihood of action being needed by the Tripartite Commission in relation to the Albanian claim and the winding-up of the Tripartite Commission. This situation arose in 1995, and a new Secretary General, Mr. Emrys Davies, as appointed in June 1995.


Cost of the Tripartite Commission

30. The three Governments, and the three Commissioners, showed throughout the life of the Commission a keen awareness of the need to minimize the cost of the operation of the Commission, which in accordance with its terms of reference, was being met from the gold pool. During the 52 years of the Tripartite Commission existence, 43,880.424 ounces of fine gold, ie some 0.406% of the total gold pool, were sold to finance the Tripartite Commission's activities. From 1997, some of the interest earned from the deposit of gold with the Bank of England (see paragraph 16) were similarly used for this purpose. It should also be borne in mind that all but 2,823.097 ounces of the 43,880.424 ounces were sold at a time when the price of gold was maintained by international agreement at U.S. $35 or thereabouts, compared with about U.S. $380 in 1996.

31. It would be right also to record that the three Governments made Major, but unquantified and indeed unquantifiable, contributions to the work of the Tripartite Commission in assembling the gold pool and providing free of charge the services of Commissioners, gold experts and Government service officers in Brussels and in their capitals over the years.

The Winding-up of the Tripartite Commission

The closure of the Tripartite Commission was set for 9 September 1998. Following the final distributions (with the exception of that to the successor states of the former Yugoslavia - see paragraph 27 above), a series of administrative measures was undertaken, such as the closure of the accounts of the Tripartite Commission at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank of England and transfer of the archives to the depository (the Archives Nationales Francaises). It was expected that the closure of the Tripartite Commission would be the subject of a declaration by three Governments and announced in the three official gazettes.

 

 

 

 

 


Acknowledgment

The Tripartite Commission would like to take this opportunity of recording its gratitude to the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium for its hospitality over the years. It also wishes to record its gratitude to the staff of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Bank of England and the Banque de France for their cooperation and efficiency in carrying out the numerous tasks requested of them.

 

Brussels

 

3 September 1998

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Mervyn Jones Mr. Philippe Malo Ms. Anne De Derse

Commissioner of the Commissioner of the Commissioner of the

United Kingdom Republic of France United States

 

 

 





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