Mystery over huge gold imports: Two massive shipments of gold coins, worth up to $64 million in total, have been imported into New Zealand from Canada in recent months, but the owner or owners remain a mystery. The shipments came to light in the September trade figures, which showed imports from Canada were up $64m, led by gold coins. Imports of collector pieces and antiques were up $67m, also mainly because of gold coins. After querying the shipments with Customs, Statistics NZ put the coins into the "collectable" rather than investment category. However, well-known Otaki antiques dealer John Mowbray says it is highly unlikely that any collector would have imported such a valuable cache. "If you said to me on a year's basis, I would say yeah, that sounds probable. But for one month? "In my mind it's not conceivable that a collection of coins for collectors would be coming into the country at that value."
The Reserve Bank said it did not import gold, but the country's two biggest traders of commemorative gold coins do. However, John Hunter of NZ Gold Merchants said he had heard nothing about a very large amount of gold coin being brought in for minting purposes. He agreed the coins were almost certainly destined for investors. "If it's come from the Canadian mint, it's unlikely it's collectable, it's a bullion coin," he said. Mike O'Kane of New Zealand Mint suggested it could be an overseas buyer storing their gold in this country. "We are seeing a lot of offshore clients wanting to store here in New Zealand because we've got a nice stable government . . . "You've got to pay to get it shipped here, which does add a very large margin to most buyers. But if you're looking to buy and hold a large amount, then we do tick a lot of boxes." An answer may lie with the Customs Department. Although officials have been unable to supply an answer so far, it is understood that the shipments have highlighted a rare discrepancy between Customs and Statistics NZ as to how gold coins should be categorised, and further research is under way. Sources said "pure" or investment-grade gold did not incur duty when it came into the country and generally was treated as a financial transaction by Statistics NZ. Coins such as gold sovereigns, which were less than 99.5 per cent pure, did incur GST and in this case, showed up in the trade figures.
Acknowledgements: The Dominion Post