State Minister for Finance and Planning MA Mannan yesterday claimed that all gold kept in the Bangladesh Bank's vault is secure.
“If anyone has any doubt, he can check it … The door of Bangladesh Bank is open,” Mannan told reporters after a meeting with the BB governor and senior customs officials at his secretariat office.
The issue of adulterated gold in the highly secure BB vault came to the fore after Bangla daily Prothom Alo ran a report on Tuesday saying mixed metals were found in one of the gold bars kept in the vault, and the percentage of gold in it was found at 46 percent instead of 80 percent.
The report, based on the findings of a probe by the National Board of Revenue's Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID), also cited that 22 carats gold was recorded as 18 carats in the BB register.
The state minister said, “The news stunned me, and the way it came in the newspaper seemed very dangerous to me.
“Yet, we are not taking the issue lightly. Bangladesh Bank is the custodian of public property, and we will not accept any lapses in this regard.”
Mannan mentioned that he asked the BB to hold a press conference to make things clear as the finance minister is now abroad.
He said he had talked to high-ups of both the BB and the NBR, and they assured him that there is nothing to fear.
He also backed the BB's explanation that the “clerical mistake” in recording the purity of the gold bar had happened because of similarity between the number 4 in Bangla and the number 8 in English.
At a press briefing at the BB headquarters on Tuesday, BB officials claimed the purity of the gold bar was 40 percent, but it was mistakenly written 80 percent, and the only designated goldsmith for the BB -- Shokh Jewellers -- made the mistake.
Mannan also pointed out that the archaic measurement system leaves scope for different readings in measuring the purity of the same gold specimen. But in the electronic system, differences in readings would be insignificant.
Admitting lapses in the bureaucratic system, Mannan said, “Bangladesh Bank and the NBR exchanged a number of letters in the last one year. Even, it took one and a half months to respond to a letter.”
The whole system will be reviewed, and if any negligence is found, nobody will be spared, he said.
Responding to a query on the possibility of forming a probe body, he said the finance minister will decide on it.
Asked whether the prime minister is aware of the issue, Mannan said he had talked to the PM's principal secretary about it.
Yesterday, The Daily Star talked to Shokh Jewellers owner Giasuddin to get his version.
“The purity of the gold [bar] was 40 percent,” he said.
Giasuddin mentioned that neither the BB nor the CIID had contacted him during the probe by the CIID.