Tories call in Mounties over mint’s missing millions
Canada’s money-makers can’t find tens of millions in precious metals that are shown on the books
Employees work June 8, 2009 at the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa, where there are worries security could have been breached following the revelation that a large amount of precious metals recorded on the books is missing. The mint uses gold, silver, platinum and palladium in its operations.
OTTAWA – The federal government has asked the RCMP to launch an investigation into the tens of millions worth of precious metals that have gone missing from the Royal Canadian Mint.
The announcement comes after an external audit was launched to reconcile the mint’s records with the physical stock of metals.
And it comes after the Star revealed today that the value of the missing metal was worth more than $10 million.
“I think we are all very concerned,” said Rob Merrifield, minister of state for transport, the department responsible for the mint.
Merrifield said he “instructed” mint staff today to call in the Mounties to assist with the ongoing audit, which has been under way since early March.
The external audit is trying to reconcile the mint’s records with the physical stocks of gold, silver, platinum and palladium, the four precious metals used by the Crown corporation in its production of coins and collector sets.
Mint officials remain confident that bookkeeping errors are to blame. But they haven’t ruled out theft and some at the institution now believe a police probe is inevitable if the review – due to be released in two weeks – is unable to provide good answers.
Given the high value of the missing metals, NDP MP Thomas Mulcair said yesterday that mint staff should be calling on police to immediately launch a criminal investigation.
“There’s no possible way to explain the loss of tens of millions of dollars through simple administrative or bureaucratic foul-ups and missteps,” he said in an interview.
He faulted the Conservative government for not being more forthcoming about the controversy.
“People understand that mistakes happen … but they tried to dismiss the whole thing from the beginning,” said Mulcair (Outremont). “Well, if there’s tens of millions of dollars missing, there’s clearly lots to worry about… This is a really serious amount of money and it deserves really serious attention.”
Liberal MP Joe Volpe (Eglinton—Lawrence) said the mint’s international reputation – it produces coins for at least 12 other nations – is taking a battering each day the probe drags on with the prospect security may have been breached.
“How long does it take for this government to figure out what is going on?” Volpe said. “Either money is running out the door or they have a serious problem making two and two add up to four.”
In fact, Volpe suggested the mint and the government already know the results of the audit and are sitting on bad news. “I suspect they have the answer and they have reason for not publicizing it,” he said.
Mint spokeswoman Christine Aquino yesterday declined to comment on the value of the metals or any aspect of the audit.
“We’re going to wait for the review to come out in the next couple of weeks,” she said.
However, last week she said an unprecedented demand for gold in 2008 put pressure on the mint’s internal control systems, which led to the “unreconciled difference” between the gold on hand and the value recorded in the mint’s books.
In 2007, the mint refined a total of 5.4 million troy ounces of precious metals; of that, gold represented 2.8 million troy ounces, or about 86,000 kilograms. The mint sold 278,616 troy ounces of gold bullion in the form of coins, wafers and bars.
Jun 09, 2009 03:05 PM
OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF
Source: The Toronto Star