Swiss propose gold transparency to avoid human rights breaches

FILE PHOTO: A one kilogramm gold bar imprinted with the word 'Switzerland' is displayed in a Swiss bank in Bern November 25, 2014. Picture taken November 25, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich/File Photo

ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland stopped short of new laws to ensure that gold it imports for refining has not been produced in violation of human rights, proposing greater industry transparency instead.

Home to four of the world’s largest refiners, the Swiss industry has come under fire from human rights groups and non-governmental organisations for instances in which gold it has imported was alleged to have financed conflict or been mined in ways that violated human rights.

“Traceable sourcing of the precious metal is essential because it is the only way to prevent gold mined in breach of human rights from being imported into Switzerland,” the Swiss government said in a statement on Wednesday.

A government commissioned study said it was impossible to determine the origins of gold received by Switzerland, which refines up to two thirds of the world’s gold, importing 2,000-3,000 tonnes (6,613,868 lbs) a year.

One of the reasons it is hard to trace where gold has come from is that Switzerland imported from 92 countries in 2016, with a third of that from Britain and the United Arab Emirates, countries which do not produce any mined gold themselves.

The government recommended administrators improve the data collected and published by Swiss customs on gold’s origins, as well as improving transparency on internal due diligence rules and risk analyses used by the industry to vet suppliers.

“The refineries have precise information about the origins of mined gold, but these aren’t provided in customs declaration,” it said.

Government agencies should also consider industry suggestions that Switzerland’s Precious Metal Control Offices might take on an expanded role in making checks, it added.

The government did not suggest any changes to the law, and did not say how its recommendations would be implemented.

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