Gold Industry Shaken as 83 Tons of Fake Gold Bars Used to Secure $2 Billion Loans in China
The gold industry has been shaken after it was discovered that 83 tons of fake gold bars have been used as collateral for loans worth 20 billion yuan from 14 financial institutions to a major gold jewelry manufacturer in Wuhan, China. This amount of gold “would be equivalent to 22% of China’s annual gold production and 4.2% of the state gold reserve as of 2019.”
Using 83 Tons of Fake Gold to Get Loans
One of China’s largest gold jewelry manufacturers, Kingold Jewelry Inc., has been using fake gold to secure loans obtained from 14 Chinese financial institutions, Caixin reported Monday. The loans were for 20 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) obtained over the past five years. The Wuhan-based jewelry company was able to pass on the fake gold as pure gold, using it as collateral for loans and insurance policies to cover any losses. The publication detailed:
At least some of 83 tons of gold bars used as loan collateral turned out to be nothing but gilded copper. That has left lenders holding the bag for the remaining 16 billion yuan [$2.3 billion] of loans outstanding against the bogus bars.
Founded by Jia Zhihong in 2002, Kingold is the largest privately-owned gold processor in central China’s Hubei province. The Nasdaq-listed company (NASDAQ: KGJI) was previously a gold factory affiliated with the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) that was split off from the central bank during a restructuring, the publication conveyed. Kingold’s chairman and controlling shareholder, the 59-year-old Jia served in the military in Wuhan and Guangzhou. He previously managed gold mines owned by the People’s Liberation Army.
The fake gold was first discovered in February when Dongguan Trust Co. Ltd. tried to liquidate Kingold’s collateral to cover defaulted debts. However, the gold bars turned out to be just “gilded copper alloy,” the news outlet described, adding that “The news sent shockwaves through Kingold’s creditors.” China Minsheng Trust Co. Ltd., one of Kingold’s largest creditors, then obtained a court order to test Kingold’s gold bars sitting in its coffers. The test result came back on May 22, confirming that the gold bars were just copper alloy. Two other creditors also tested Kingold’s pledged gold bars and found they were fake, Caixin learned, adding:
The 83 tons of purportedly pure gold … would be equivalent to 22% of China’s annual gold production and 4.2% of the state gold reserve as of 2019.
According to the news outlet, Chinese authorities are investigating how this happened. While Jia flatly denies that anything is wrong with the collateral his company put up, the Shanghai Gold Exchange, a gold industry self-regulatory organization, disqualified Kingold as a member on June 24.
Gold Market Dilemma and How Bitcoin Outshines Gold
The news of China’s fake gold has been heavily discussed on social media, with some questioning how much of the overall gold market is fake gold. Saifedean Ammous, the author of the popular book “The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking,” tweeted: “A quantity [approximately] 20% of China’s annual gold production was found to be fake. China is the world’s largest gold producer. How much more fake gold is out there? Could gold’s market supply be growing at 5-15% every year because of all the fake gold?”
New York Times bestselling author Jim Rickards opined: “The problem with Wuhan is not only do they lie about the [COVID-19] virus, they lie about gold also. Wuhan looks like the world center of counterfeit gold bars.”
Many bitcoiners also chimed in on the fake gold discussions, comparing gold’s attributes to bitcoin’s. Tyler Winklevoss of Gemini crypto exchange noted, “This is why bitcoin is gold 2.0. It’s mathematically impossible to counterfeit.”
Shapeshift CEO Erik Voorhees commented, “I’m an advocate of gold, but one monetary attribute in which bitcoin handily beats gold is ‘verifiability.’ With free software, any human (or machine) can verify bitcoin authenticity. Verifying gold requires expertise and equipment, & hard to scale.” Parallax Digital CEO Robert Breedlove tweeted:
Bitcoin is more divisible, durable, portable, recognizable (which encompasses verifiability), and scarce than gold. Bitcoin is also cheaper to safeguard and less vulnerable to theft. I wonder which one the free market will select?