The Libyan central bank – which is under Colonel Gaddafi’s control – holds 143.8 tonnes of gold, according to the latest data from the International Monetary Fund, although some suspect the true amount could be several tonnes higher.
Those reserves, among the top 25 in the world, are worth more than $6.5bn at current prices, enough to pay a small army of mercenaries for months or even years.
While many central banks hold their gold reserves in international vaults in London, New York or Switzerland, Libya’s bullion is in the country, said people familiar with the country’s activities in the gold market.
US and European governments have frozen billions of dollars in Libyan assets, as sanctions have hit the central bank, sovereign wealth fund and state oil company.
But Libya’s gold reserves may provide Col Gaddafi with a lifeline – if he can sell them. To raise large amounts of money, bankers said, Col Gaddafi would have to transport the bullion out of Libya.
Before violence broke out the gold was stored at the central bank in Tripoli. But since then it may have been moved to another location, such as the southern city of Sebha – within reach of the borders with Chad and Niger.
The political turbulence in the Middle East – besides boosting the price of gold to a record $1,444 a troy ounce – has highlighted the property that has for centuries made gold so appealing to criminals, investors and dictators alike: it does not rely on a government for its value.
Following the revolution in Egypt, the country banned gold exports for four months in order to prevent officials of the former government from moving their wealth abroad.
At the same time, Iran has been quietly stocking up on gold in recent years, in an apparent attempt to shift away from the US dollar and thus protect its reserves from risk of seizure. Other significant buyers of gold include China, Russia and India.
Read the rest @ FT