July 30, 2013 -- England’s central bank got its hands dirty back in 1939 selling looted gold on behalf of the Nazi regime, reported the Financial Times.

The gold in question had been looted by the Nazis after their 1939 invasion of Czechoslovakia. The gold was valued at 5.6 million British pounds when it was stolen. It would be worth 736.4 million British pounds (more than $1.1 billion in the United States) today.

The role that played by the Bank of England during this time, which was previously completely unknown, serves as a troubling reminder of the unpredictable ethics and actions of central banks. The complete story had been written down and completed by 1950, but never published or shared outside the bank.

After the Nazis looted the Czech gold, the Bank of England sold the stolen bullion on behalf of the Reichsbank. This happened after the government in the United Kingdom had frozen and Czech assets held in Britain, in order to prevent them from passing into Nazi hands.

Gold Bars

What has been known was that the gold in question was transferred into the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), a bank for central banks based in Basel, Switzerland, into an account managed on behalf of the Reichsbank. This participation by BIS has been considered a dark mark on the bank’s reputation.

Information released today shows that the Bank of England decided to place more importance on following the wishes of the BIS than on its own government’s wishes to freeze the sale of Czech assets.

At the time of the gold sale, the Bank of England held the chair at BIS, which in turn stored much of the BIS’s gold in the British central banks vaults.

The Bank of England sold Nazi gold several more times following pressure from the BIS.

“There was a further gold transaction on the 1st June [1939] when there were sales of gold (440,000 British pounds) and gold shipments to New York (£420,000 British pounds) from the No. 19 account of the BIS. This represented gold which had been shipped to London by the Reichsbank,” the history said.