$300,000 in gold missing from Ukraine Central Bank after swapped for lead bricks

RIA Novosti/Pavel Lisitsyn
Cunning fraudsters have conned the Ukraine Central Bank branch in Odessa into buying $300,000 worth of gold which turned out to be lead daubed with gold paint.

“A criminal case has been opened and we are now carrying out an investigation to identify those involved in the crime,” a spokesman for the Odessa police force is quoted by Vesti.

The news was first reported by Odessa’s State Ministry of Internal Affairs.

READ MORE: Where has all Ukraine's gold gone?

A preliminary investigation suggests the gang had someone working for them inside the bank that forged the necessary paperwork to allow the sale of the fake gold bullion. It’s also been discovered that bank staff were not regularly checked when entering or exiting the premises.

Since the discovery, the National Bank no longer buys precious metal over the counter, as it cannot be sure of its authenticity, says the First Deputy Head of the National Bank of Ukraine, Aleksandr Pisaruk.

The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) has confirmed the theft of several kilograms of gold in the Odessa region. The cashier involved has apparently fled to Crimea, Vesti Ukraine reports. Criminal proceedings began on November 18, even though the scam apparently took place between August and October.

In November, the Central Bank reportedly lost $12.6 billion in gold reserves, putting the total stockpile at just over $120 million.

However, the Central Bank reports that foreign currency and gold reserves stood at $9.97 billion at the end of November.