“We want to transfer part of the Soviet gold reserves abroad. They need to be in a safe place and under professional management. The situation here is too fluid and volatile. If we leaveGosbank’s gold in Moscow, either our politicians will steal it, or foreign creditors will freeze it.”
I was aware that the government was getting desperate. The country’s trade deficit had ballooned, inflation was hitting 300%, while its economy was shrinking at 15%. The government itself was unstable. There were rumours of the possible removal of Gorbachev, which had even reached foreigners like me.
“Gospodin Gerashchenko, how much gold do you wish to transfer?” I asked nervously. Without saying a word, Viktor reached for a file on his desk and showed me the current holdings, recorded by hand. He seemed to be indicating that his office was bugged. I saw the figure of eleven hundred tonnes and nodded. It was about half of the amount estimated by the CIA.
We toasted with another glass of vodka and agreed to continue our meeting the following day. My minders didn’t seem surprised that I had a follow up meeting. Back at the hotel I made a few calls and prepared my recommendations for the proposed transaction. When I got back to Gosbank in the morning, Viktor’s plans were more advanced.
“We should be able to move about half of our holdings this year.” I quickly calculated – 500 tonnes of gold are worth about $6.5 billion. A few Aeroflot flights should be able to handle this. Ilyushin Il 62 can carry forty tonnes. So, thirteen flights should be sufficient to fly out this amount of gold.