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Out of the Darkness

Though vehemently denied by all and sundry in officialdom, there are many in financial markets who will tell you that the decision taken suddenly in 1999 by UK Chancellor Culpability' Brown, with the endorsement of Sir Eddie the Unready George, to dump roughly 400 tonnes of Britain's precious reserves of gold at what was then a 20-year (and is now a 24-year) low of just under 157/oz, was not some rational act of 'portfolio management', but rather a deliberate attempt to cap prices until enough metal could be transferred to all those bullion banks - and their central bank backers - holding wildly overstretched short-positions.

As Reg Howe of Golden Sextant put it in his legal complaint against the Bank for International settlements for this very act of price fixing - a case, incidentally, never defeated, but only dismissed on the technicality that Howe was not the party who had been damaged by any such operation and so was not eligible to file the suit:

'Edward A. J. George, Governor of the Bank of England and a director of the BIS, to Nicholas J. Morrell, Chief Executive of Lonmin Plc:

"We looked into the abyss if the gold price rose further. A further rise would have taken down one or several trading houses, which might have taken down all the rest in their wake. Therefore at any price, at any cost, the central banks had to quell the gold price, manage it. It was very difficult to get the gold price under control but we have now succeeded. The U.S. Fed was very active in getting the gold price down. So was the U.K."'

In an even more infamous remark made the year before this alleged exchange - and ironically just before LTCM nearly blew up the whole of Wall Street - Fed Chairman Greenspan, too, assured his listeners no harm could eventuate from the swelling numbers of unregulated derivatives in existence and that nor could 'private counterparties restrict supplies of gold.... where central banks stand ready to lease gold in increasing quantities should the price rise'.

Moreover, in February of this year, Antonio Fazio, the head of the Banc d'Italia told a London audience.

'In a system that rests basically on fiduciary money, the principles of free trade and comparative advantage typical of trade in manufactures have sometimes been extended unquestioningly to movements of financial capital.'

Which, in English, means it's all very well opening borders to trade, but not to unlimited quantities of hot paper money all chasing the latest vogue.

'Reflection on the mistakes made and the need to limit and rectify the adverse effects on the stability of intermediaries, to protect savings and to restore conditions for a recovery in output have prompted the monetary authorities of the industrial countries to establish more extensive and closer cooperation among themselves?and with the developing countries,' continued Fazio.

A particularly bold assertion of the truth of widespread collusion to rig markets being undertaken, you will perforce agree, But who was the driving force behind this, do you think?

'The Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Edward George, plays a leading role in this new phase of international monetary cooperation that we could say began with the meeting of the Group of Seven leading industrial countries in Toronto in February 1995, shortly after the Mexican crisis erupted.'

It should be noted that the rescue of those caught in this so-called Tequila Crisis is increasingly recognised as being the event that induced financial market participants - knowing this 'monetary co-operation' could be relied upon to bail them out from any penalties of their future excesses - to unleash the mania which was to become the Bubble upon us.

In fact, so wondrously successful has this heroic co-operation been, that it has seen most of Asia, Russia, Poland, Turkey and Latin America blow up since, together with most of the developed world's media, telecom, technology and power industries, while stripping the heart out of pensions and insurance companies everywhere and fostering a near global property and consumer credit boom of dangerous proportions.

Not a bad legacy for the now-retired Sir Eddy and his can't-be-shifted-with-a stick-of-dynamite buddy 'Sir' Alan Greenspan!

[Then again, as Jim Rogers scathingly put it in his fabulous Odyssey, 'Adventure Capitalist': Greenspan - a man with a 'long, long history of failure - did not quit graciously when his last term of office expired because he 'knew he could not get another job' and was not, in any case, 'really smart enough to have realized the damage he was causing.']

But what is the point of all these ruminations and why bring all this up now?

Well, it's just that Wednesday saw the Sterling price of gold hit 236/oz - some 50% above the lowest price the Bank achieved in its crash sales programme and nearly 30% above the average price of roughly 184/oz achieved in the course of the seventeen auctions subsequently held.

That means that Brown and George between them managed to sell a decent chunk of our patrimony for a cool ?660 million less than it would have fetched today - enough for these grandstanding Collectivists to pay, say, 30,000-odd teachers' annual salaries, or to fund around nine-tenths of a Dear Leader vanity project like the fatuous Millennium Dome!

By printing money themselves, and by alternately inveigling and turning a blind eye to the financial Big Guns' drive to distort prices and to force capital where it has no business going, the central bankers can keep the plates spinning for what seems like a very long time indeed, but, eventually, gravity wins - and they fall.

Mr Market may be bound, gagged and chained to a basement radiator for long years at a stretch, but eventually he comes stumbling out into the sunlight, turning his captors' dreams to dust.

Gold - and Silver and Platinum, too, if Wednesday's price action is any guide - may be about to show up the hollowness of the bankers' schemes and to reveal finally the vast scope of the hitherto partly hidden inflation they have engineered, into the bargain.

And if that happens, be under no illusions: it will dramatically change the outlook for us all.

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