Rifkind to reveal $7bn Nazi gold theft

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The Independent Online
The Government will today release a report that reveals for the first time the full extent of British involvement in a covert distribution of Nazi gold after the Second World War.

Its findings will increase pressure to compensate Holocaust victims and their descendants for what has been described as "the greatest robbery of the 20th century". The report could cause embarrassment for Britain and may focus attention on whether the Bank of England holds any stolen gold.

As a result of pressure from Greville Janner MP, chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust and Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the Foreign Office has been searching its archives. It initially denied any knowledge of British involvement in any deal to split the Nazi gold proceeds, but following evidence released in America has been reviewing what it has on file.

Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, has now written to Mr Janner and sent documents which the Foreign Office will make public today in the form of a 23-page memorandum entitled "Information from British Archives on Nazi Gold".

The Independent has learned that Mr Rifkind's report says that the amount of looted gold in Nazi accounts at the end of the war was at least $550m in 1945 money. That sum would be worth $7bn today and only a small portion has been recovered. Previously the Swiss authorities, backed by the UK and US, have said the haul amounted to no more than $280m.

The disparity suggests Swiss banks and former Nazis were let off the hook by Allied officials. The report confirms that the Allies knew the Swiss had at least $500m in looted gold. It says that the US wanted to use stiff sanctions against Switzerland to force Swiss banks to produce a more realistic figure but the British vetoed the idea allowing the Swiss to shield almost $300m worth of assets.

In New York the American headquarters of the WJC would not comment on the report until they had seen a copy.

The review follows revelations in Britain six weeks ago when the Holocaust Educational Trust, working with the WJC, gave the first taste of what had been discovered in United States national archives.

Those papers showed British intelligence was concerned about the Nazis using Swiss banks as early as October 1941. They revealed a post-war deal between Switzerland and the Allies to split the proceeds of the Nazi accounts, although it is unclear whether Switzerland handed the money over.