A report by Reuters illustrates the growing threat and increasing sophistication of counterfeiting in the gold industry, as well as the critical need for state-of-the-art security features to protect legitimate suppliers.
High gold prices have triggered a boom in informal and illegal mining since the mid-2000s. Smuggled and illegally-mined and -traded gold bars, worth at least US $50 million, have been discovered in Switzerland since 2017. The bars are stamped with Swiss refinery logos, but not actually produced by them. Without the stamp of a prestigious refinery, such gold would normally be forced into underground networks, or priced at a discount. The discovery in Switzerland is likely just the tip of the iceberg as forged bars are increasingly hard to authenticate worldwide.
New technological solutions are helping refineries and producers fight back and stay one step ahead of the counterfeiters. Swissinfo.ch reports that Metalor, a Swiss group specialising in precious metals, and itself affected by the illegal trade, is now using a security system developed by SICPA. The solution allows the authenticity of the ingots to be verified using a lamp and a security seal, making counterfeiting extremely difficult.
“The main challenge or threats are to prevent such counterfeiting and protect our reputation,” says Metalor CEO Antoine de Montmollin, “We are confident that thanks to this technology, it will prevent any risk of forgeries in the future.”
SICPA says its technology, BullionProtect®, has been adopted by Metalor and two other companies in the Asia Pacific region that have high compliance standards in terms of origin and conditions of extraction of the precious metal. The solution provides multiple safeguards using visible and invisible features that are virtually impossible to replicate.
The adoption of security seals for gold bullion and other precious metals is predicted to grow in the next few years. Without new security features, gold producers and refineries may remain at risk and gold industry buyers, including reputable global banks, may increasingly limit their purchases to the suppliers they can fully trust.
The London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), which acts as a global authority for precious metals, including gold, is drawing up standards for security features. It has also proposed a global database containing information about every kilobar produced, as a way of cross-checking the products and to add an extra layer of security.