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Golden mystery deepens

Golden mystery deepens

MORE than 3.6 tons of Cambodia's gold reserves - and perhaps as much as 8.6 tons

- has disappeared since the 1960's, according to the former National Bank of Cambodia

Director-General Heng Kim-Y.

"I am afraid that the successive Cambodian governments have withdrawn more than

the 12.4 tonnes you mentioned [in the May 8 article] ," Kim-Y wrote to the Phnom

Penh Post May 13.

The Post revealed that the Cambodian government has successfully claimed

12.4 tonnes of gold from the Swiss-based Bank of International Settlements in an

un-publicized deal. But Heng Kim-Y - who was the NBC governor in the 1960s - said

that the government seemed to have used up much more than that.

"At the end of the sixties, the gold belonging to Cambodia was more than 21

tons, of which 16 tons [were] deposited at BIS," Kim-Y wrote.

He said 5 tons were deposited with a bank other than the BIS, and that Cambodia had

also had $200 million in cash invested offshore.

Kim-Y said that he had relevant internal NBC documents to prove his claim, but says

he will show them "only to the legal government of Cambodia".

He added that the International Monetary Fund should easily be able to confirm the

details - including dates and the payee - about any withdrawal of gold, as the central

bank was obliged to declare all such transactions.

Chhang Song, former Information Minister in late 1974, said the president of the

Khmer Republic, Lon Nol, tried getting the gold in 1975 to finance the war against

the Khmer Rouge, but failed. "President Lon Nol went to the Swiss bank in 1975

to withdraw that money in order to reorganize his regime to fight and get the power

from the KR, but he got nothing," Chhang said.

He said the gold had been a tightly-kept secret, as those who knew about it were

hoping to keep some of it for themselves. "Very few Cambodian ministers knew

about that gold story," he said. "If they knew, they tried to have it,"

Chhang said.

Some of the gold came from the finance section of the NBC, and some from the a French-Cambodian

rubber company called Cambodia Co., Chhang said. Some of the gold was also reserved

for the use of Royal Palace, he added.

Kim-Y said that the gold was not a foreign reserve, but rather an asset of the NBC

that "belongs to the Cambodian people".

"It is very exceptional that the Government [can] use the gold detained by the

central bank for budget purposes... If so, the national money will depreciate and

the national economy will collapse irremediably," he wrote. He added that then-Prince

Sihanouk had forbidden the use of the gold during his regime.

"Words like secret deal, negotiated settlement, victory and so on ... do not

suit central bank ethics at all. Any secret negotiated settlement is illegal."

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