* Gokhran chief tendered resignation in February-sources
* Russian government "struggling to find replacement"
* Repository central to platinum metals trading in Russia
By Polina Devitt
MOSCOW, May 9 The head of Russia's precious
metals and gems repository Gokhran, is trying, so far without
success, to resign, raising uncertainty about the leadership of
the secretive agency that once caused ructions on the world
Vladimir Rybkin, tendered his resignation in February but
his letter remains unanswered, three sources familiar with the
situation told Reuters.
"The government simply can't find a replacement for him -
nobody wants to take on such a huge list of responsibilities,"
one of the sources said. A new head of Gokhran may be found in
the early summer, another source said.
Rybkin, who is 66, declined to comment.
Founded in 1920, Gokhran is under the control of the Finance
Ministry. Its total reserves are a state secret which the
Kremlin has dipped into to plug budget holes.
Its holdings are not part of Russia's more than half a
trillion dollars in gold and foreign exchange reserves held by
the central bank.
In 2009, Gokhran sold 30 tonnes of gold to the central bank,
in a deal valued at $1 billion that covered part of a budget
deficit resulting from the 2008 global financial crash and
The repository also bought $1 billion in gems from state
diamond monopoly Alrosa that year, when rough diamond prices
fell sharply. It has not finished sorting these gems yet due to
a lack of sorting operators, one of the sources said.
Gokhran was extremely influential on global platinum group
metals (PGMs) markets in the 1990s and 2000s, when its palladium
stocks, accumulated during the 1970s and 1980s, came on the
market, depressing prices.
While its palladium reserves are a state secret and analysts
like GFMS and refiner Johnson Matthey try to guess the level
each year, most in the industry believe stocks have been already
"The stock is negligible now," the source told Reuters.
However, Gokhran's new management is likely to continue to
attract market attention as it continues to play a key role in
implementing regulations governing the sale of PGMs in Russia.
Russia's Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest
palladium producer, can only sell its refined PGMs to its
customers if it has obtained a waiver from Gokhran, and from the
regional government on whose territory the relevant precious
metals have been extracted.
"Neither Gokhran nor the relevant local government has
exercised this right in the past with respect to the group,
although no assurance can be given that they will not exercise
this right in the future," Norilsk said in a prospectus prepared
for Eurobond issue.