An ‘all gold’ recycling’
Many ‘Compro Oro’ (lit. “I buy gold”) shop owners fully assume the functions and the commercial skills of a professional operator, while not complying, even to a minimum extent, with the requirements imposed by the laws in force. In other words, operating in a completely illegal fashion. One thinks of the strong increase in the phenomenon: in April 2012, the compro oros’ in Italy were 20 thousand, by November 2011, there were more than 28 thousand and, today, the situation seems to be completely out of hand. We are, therefore, witnessing an exponential and galloping increase of the phenomenon, while the professional traders in gold, regularly registered with the Bank of Italy are 380 against the 291 of a year ago.
The Eurispes 2012 data on the increase of the compro oro shops and on the financing methods of the Italian citizens – selling their gold – confirms what has been stated by the two following associations: one
(ANOPO – National Association of Professional Operators in Gold) and the AIRA – National Association Responsible for Anti-recycling (1) . LThe activity in question is a financial activity and as such must be adequately governed by regulatory standards. In concrete terms, 8.5% of those interviewed stated they resorted to this system to “obtain money rapidly”. This is an important detail and should give pause for reflection.
The average turnover of a compro oro shop can be assessed around 500 thousand euros per annum, which means that the total turnover amounts to 14 billion euros (considering the estimate for the month of April 2011 at 7 billion euros, this means 300-350 thousand euros per annum per shop). Furthermore, if we observe that the selling price of gold has risen by 30-40 euros per gram in only six months and we focus on these extremely high figures, it is easy to imagine how this sector is appetizing to the mafia associations and organized crime in general. It is for this very reason that investigations have brought to light how 60% of these shops are engaged in criminal activities, like recycling and tax evasion and, of these; a good 20% are involved in phenomena of organized crime (2) .
The phenomena is not limited to certain areas of the Country, but is extended throughout the territory. It is sufficient to make a rapid search on the Internet to come across crime news related to compro oro from Milan to Bari and on to Messina. And not among the least is the Province of Arezzo where, some time ago, during the ‘Plan of Economic Control of the Territory’, the Guardia di Finanza inspected 12 compro oro shops. In 1/3 of this number serious irregularities for crimes of recycling and the receiving of stolen goods were ascertained. During the investigation, 9 kilos of gold and silver objects were found, plus 44 valuable watches which had never been registered with the Public Security, thus impeding their identification and knowledge of their origins. Even more serious is the false reporting of certain objects under the names of honest and regular clients who had never sold any of their valuables. The objects registered in their names by the compro oro shops amount to the overall value of 100 thousand euros. This fact of crime news is only the last of a series of episodes which has been going on for a number of years.
Recently, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Anna Maria Cancellieri, has underlined the ‘danger’ and the exponential growth of these criminal phenomena. Using the words of the Minister, in the compro oro shops, there is a lack of transparency starting from the “objective difficulty in tracing the changes of hand because of a regulatory framework which needs an updating intervention, also for the benefit of a greater fiscal transparency”.
In fact, it concerns a non-controlled sector, in continual growth, which is based also on the phenomenon of “license trafficking”. In 2011 alone, and only in the Capital, the Police Headquarters (Questura) issued 211 new licenses, of which 33% were relative to ownership changes. The licenses are exchanged every 2-3 months – changes made very rapidly in order to avoid suspicion. Furthermore, to ensure this, no particular competence or certification is necessary, apart from a clean criminal record, of course..
Definition and regulatory framework
When one speaks of the gold market, it is well, first of all, to clarify certain aspects which are not in any way of secondary importance: dissimilar and distorted interpretations are often registered in this sector, both from a regulatory and fiscal point of view and, consequently, operational. In the first place, not everyone knows that with the term “compro oro” a series of operators, active on the market in different ways, are indicated: generally, the term “compro oros’” means shops that are granted licenses by the Questura to sell wholesale (and sometimes retail) and, for their principal activity, they buy gold from private individuals. Alongside these shops, there are a series of subjects who perform the same functions and, by now, are spread throughout the entire national and, as we shall see further ahead, also international territories.
Among all these, there are the professional gold traders, authorized to perform such activity by the Banca d’Italia, upon the fulfillment of a series of detailed requirements by law. Included also are the operators who buy gold as a secondary activity, such as jewellers, goldsmiths and antiquarians. Also for these activities the granting of the appropriate license from the Questura is necessary.
Gold trading in Italy is regulated by a specific legislation called “New Rules of the gold market, also by implementation of the Directive 98/80/EC Council of 12 October 1998” issued with Law N° 7 of the 17th January 2000 (3) . This establishes what must be meant by ‘gold’ (4) and what the requirements are in order to carry out this trade on a professional basis. and what the requirements are in order to carry out this trade on a professional basis.
Therefore, the professional operators on the gold market are those who are authorized to exercise, on a professional basis, (it is well to repeat), the trading of gold: the banks, upon prior notification to the UIC (now Banca d’Italia, not the UIF) and any other subject that possesses three requirements: legal form of capital company – limited company, company limited by shares, limited liability company, a cooperative company, provided with a fully paid up capital not inferior to the minimum foreseen for the limited companies – or social object that consistently involves gold trading; and, lastly, ‘the possession, on the part of the shareholders, directors and employees holding technical and commercial directional functions, of the integrity requirements provided for in Articles 108, 109 and 161, Para 2, of the Unified Code of the laws in matters of banking and credit, issued with Legislative Decree 1° September 1993, N°385’. Another provision of reference is that contained in Articles 127 and 128 of the Tulps (5) the specifications of which are in the Implementation Regulation.
The gold market, between development and crisis: overview
The Italian gold sector, after the strong rise of the 90’s has undergone, starting from the two-year period 2001-2003, a steep fall, followed by a drop of 28% in turnover and export. To date, there are no significant signs of recovery. This result considerably penalizes one of the most typical sectors of the ‘made in Italy’ and the Italian export (6) .The price of gold is fixed daily on the financial markets, but it is the so-called London fixing that guides the market trend, and where the greater part of the transactions takes place. Today, the representatives of the five largest world markets (7) establish the international quotation, which is thus reflected on the internal markets.
The quotation is established on the basis of purchase and sale orders collected worldwide: the price fluctuations are affected by the supply and demand. The most various elements help in forming the price (8) .
At the present time, world extraction of gold is circa 2,200 tons per year. The principal producer is South Africa (with over 700 tons). Other large producers are the United States (300 tons), Australia (248 tons), and Russia (230 tons). In the whole of Europe, no more than 28 tons are extracted and of this amount only 5 kilos per year in Italy (9) .
At the present time, there are circa 2,452 tons of gold in the Banca d’Italia deposits, for an overall value of 98.9 billion euros (10) . At the end of 2009, according to the financial statements of the Banca d’Italia, this gold had a value of 60 billion euros, symptom of the fact that gold, in times of crisis is considered the cast-iron asset par excellence.
In 1998, Italy was the largest gold processor in the world, with an average of 450-500 tons worked every year (for 70% of the gold exported). Around 10,000 production and distribution companies operated in this sector, with a turnover which, in that year, reached the amount of 11,000 billion of the old Lira.
The largest part of the gold processed in Italy is done in Arezzo where there are 1,270 companies although the sector is also developed in other Italian regions (11) .
Until 2000, apart from Spain and Greece, Italy was the only European Country where it was prohibited for private individuals to buy gold for investment, i.e. it was not possible to purchase an ingot (not even abroad) for private use or custody in safety deposit boxes; furthermore, only worked gold or coins could be purchased (12) . Certain banks, upon appropriate ministerial authorization, were exempted from these restrictions (Popolare Vicentina, Popolare dell’Etruria and Lazio, Banco Ambrosiano Veneto). These banks are situated in areas where the highest density of goldsmith laboratories are concentrated (the goldsmiths are, in fact, authorized to buy gold for their work).
Since February 2000, following the coming into force of the Law N° 7/2000, the monopoly on gold was abolished, which allowed also the private savers to purchase coins and ingots exempt from VAT. A third of the world’s gold is presently conserved in the central banks (circa 30,000 tons); while the rest is transformed into jewellery or applied in the electronics, space and medical industries (8% of the world’s gold finishes up in dental prostheses).
Still today, gold can be sold by the States to make payments, to pay off the deficits of the balances of payments or as asset to offer as security.
With the liberalization of the Italian gold market and the abolition of VAT on gold, private individuals have free access to the purchase of ingots for investment, up to now precluded to the general public.
The methods of gold investment are various: the most common is that of the physical metal, such as gold coins or ingots.
The ingots represent the step subsequent to the coins in the direct possession of physical gold. The ingots do have the advantage of being more economical (with the increase of the weight, the incidence of production costs decreases) at the expense, however, of a lower liquidability (13) .
However, the traditional form of purchasing gold consists in the coins for investment. In the first place, the advantage is that their price does not undergo the increase of the manufacturing costs – which must be sustained in the case of jewellery products (not to be confused with the pure gold) (14) – as the price covers only the gold content. In the second place, just as in the case of ingots, the transaction is exempt from VAT.
In order not to incur storage costs or insurance of the ingots or investment coins, use is made of quoted financial instruments, for example, the Etp (Exchange Traded Products): there are around 15 at the Milan Stock Exchange, between Etf, Etc and Etn (15) , these vehicles, at contained costs, replicate, more or less accurately, the trend of gold listed in London.
Buying a share of the Etc (Exchange Traded Fund), one purchases an equal amount of gold set aside in the bank vault by the issuer. In the event of default of the counterparty, the investment is guaranteed, therefore, by the physical ingots. The taxation is 12.5%.
Finally, investments in gold companies are also common, but in this case, one is exposed to exogenous factors such as corporate indebtedness or equity cycles.
As already mentioned, with the Law N° 7 of 2000, the gold monopoly was abolished and VAT to the extent of 20%, at the ordinary rate, has remained only on the manufacture of the ingots. Therefore, at this time, anyone can buy or sell gold in Italy and abroad and can keep it in any form without limitations. The professional exercise of gold trading is reserved, however, to a few operators (the up to date list is easily found on the UIF site) and it is to these operators that one looks to for the guarantee of quality and the purity of the gold.
In any event, anyone who makes transactions in gold, also gratuitously, or transfers abroad in an amount equal to or superior to 12,500 euros, must declare it to the UIF. The penalties in cases of omitted communication vary from 10 to 40% of the value.
There exist forms of financial investment that enable one to profit from the stability of gold without the material holding of the precious metal, i.e. under the form of specialized funds or the Eft(s) available on the international exchanges. In this regard, a series of gold financial instruments are reported, such as future, warrant, gold swaps.
I Compro oro shops
Notwithstanding their recent development, it is possible to link the beginning of the first compro oro shops to the birth of the pawnbroker, Monte di Pietà.
The initiative was started in Italy by the Franciscan Brothers at the end of the 15th Century. Their purpose was to provide small loans under conditions that were favourable compared to those of the market, in exchange for a pledge. In fact, it was the beginning of what is known today as ‘microcredit’. At the time, clients had to pawn objects which were worth at least one third more than the value of the loan. The function of the Monte di Pietà was to finance people in difficult by supplying them with the necessary liquidity; at the end of the agreed period, if the sum was not returned, the pawned object could be sold at auction.
It is difficult to establish with any certainty the territorial development of the commercial activity commonly known compro oro shops: it is thought, perhaps rightly, that the reasons themselves are to be found in a multiplicity of elements which, altogether, have supplied the drive for these activities to find the right humus on which to root.
We refer, especially, to the sociological justifications, as well as being logical and opportune (in the broadest sense of the term) which have allowed many operators to open activities of this kind in their own cities and to present themselves in such a convincing manner, as to arouse, in a very few years, the interest of organized crime due to the quantity of cash movement in the single shops.
Nowadays, the procedure (bureaucratic and practical) for the opening of a compro oro shop is not at all expensive, thanks to the very low entry costs and to the very few stringent requirements. Anyone who wishes to open a compro oro shop for the sole purpose of reselling the precious metal to wholesalers/intermediaries or to sell directly to a private party must comply only with the obligation of authorization from the public security supplied by the Questura, notification to the Municipality of the commencement of the activity, and the opening of the VAT registration.
If, on the other hand, one wishes to sell directly to the melting companies, a series of obligations and restraints must be respected, as dictated by the Law 7/2000, together with integrity requirements and lack of a criminal record.
Purchase of gold can be made only from clients who are of legal age and who possess documents of identification: once the valuable is paid for, it cannot be sold before 10 days, as provided by law, in order to allow eventual controls by the authorities (16) the practice is to have the client sign a contract which relieves him of the responsibility of having bought stolen goods (and what the usefulness of this practice is merits consideration of its own).
Lastly, it is obligatory to keep a register of the antiques, valuables and goods, which is authenticated by the Questura. The places where the gold purchase activities are carried out are usually small business premises from 20 to 35 square meters, which are rather soberly decorated. The windows must be covered (even if not entirely) by publicity posters for the purposes of protecting the privacy of the transactions. To this are added the security systems: shatterproof walls as division from the public, alarms, video surveillance, safes. The ‘tools of the trade’ are few, but essential instruments: precision scales, hardware of the craft, products for the evaluation of the valuables and, naturally, the sign.
The activity can be performed by one person only, without the need of any particular professional training.
In the majority of cases, the compro oro activities are related to franchised brands, in light of the fact that the franchising represents the form of entrepreneurship which is ideal for introduction into the commercial world, reducing the initial investment and part of the risks.
The present regulations provided for, for those who sell gold, are identification by means of a document of the transferee subject: the details must be reported in a special register, including the description of the purchased objects. The merchandise must remain in storage for ten days to enable verification of provenance (17) .
It is estimated that at a territorial distribution level, the compro oro shops have passed from two thousand to over five thousand over a period of only two years on all the national territory, even though, today, a more precise estimate cannot be given, since there does not exist a specific category for them (in the vast majority of cases, they use exactly the same license as the jewellers for “the sale of valuables”).
According to the information of the Guardia di Finanza, the seizure of precious gems in the areas of fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, usury, the receiving of stolen goods and violation of the laws of public security amounted to (in 2009 and the first 10 months of 2010) over two million euros and, near the same figure, for those relative to objects of craft hardware and jeweller instruments. The Regional Observatory on Legality in Puglia (18) has discovered that where the compro oro shops proliferate, a surge of 70% of thefts, snatchings and robberies has been registered; in Bari alone, there are 40 – between small laboratories and franchise shops – businesses that buy precious metals; in the city of Naples, an increase of 30%, in two years, has been estimated.
In the last three years, in Lazio and Sicily such businesses have increased by 60%, while in Piedmont and Veneto by 30%. The national average is 22.5% (19) .
At the moment, the compro oro shops present on the national territory are circa 20,000 (20) and the average turnover is estimated (rounded down) at 300,000 euros per year.
A compro oro shop, in an epoch of crisis like the present one, is able to spend as much as 40 thousand euros a year in publicity. In the City of Bologna alone, there are 162 jeweller and goldsmith activities registered with the Chamber of Commerce, but since the ‘pure’ jewellers are about 120-125, the difference is due to the gold merchants which are, therefore, forty.
The retailer goldsmiths that have registered an increase in the number of sold objects have passed from 14 to 18%, but those with an unchanged balance compared to the previous year have fallen from 47 to 19%, and those in “negative territory” have risen from 39 to 63%. In fact, the 50% of the jewellers interviewed have reported a fall in sold pieces oscillating between 11 and 30% (21) . This last data shows how the gold sector is in crisis, while the only operator able to maintain high the earnings and substantial spending budget is the compro oro shop.
According to national statistical data, an agency collects about 1600 grams of used gold per month, with an average gross profit of 5 euros per gram. Therefore, as an example: 1600 grams X 5 euros = 8000 euros – 900 euros of expenses = 7100 profit.
Also to be noted is the level of exportation in the companies which, in the two year period of 2009-2010, exported, with financial and customs documentation, substantial quantities of ‘precious metals and semi-finished products’ (22) .
The Italian exportations of precious metals in the two year period 2009-2010 grew, in quantity, by circa 40%, approaching 1,000 tons: they are prevalently directed (58% in value) towards the Swiss from whom Italy imports a third of the same precious metals. By contrast, the imports were reduced by 6%, to 1,400 tons. The prospects of profit estimated by the same operators of the sectors, often organized under the social form of franchising, are inviting: up to 390 thousand euros per year. Sicily has the highest percentage in Italy, with an increase of 60%.
According to the owners of some of these activities, there is no real target clientele. Clients are in an age group that goes from 20 to 60 and in most cases exchange their valuables for a necessity of immediate cash.
Many are the needs that push clients to sell their gold: if, on the one side, the elderly exchange necklaces and rings to round out their incomes which, at times, are sadly inadequate, on the other side, the young people often prefer modern accessories, wish to purchase drugs or have ready cash to invest in games and betting.
The development and diffusion of these shops, however, should make us think, above all, about typology of their clients. The Observatory on criminality for Campania has observed how from 2008 to 2010 in Puglia – a region particularly sensitive to the phenomenon – the crimes against property, especially thefts in apartments and bag-snatching and similar, have grown by about 70%. In the same period, an equivalent boom of compro oros which, in the capital town alone, have passed from 416 to 700. While being careful not to fall into the trap that the psychologists call ‘illusory correlation’, and thus judge a category in a detrimental way, the synchrony is suggestive.
Looking at the national panorama, according to the well-known economist, Stefano Zamagni, “the compro oros’’’ are a form of legalized usury, to which the State must find an effective remedy, for example, microcredit” (23) .
In short, the presence of the compro oros’, according to the experts coincides with the rise of micro-criminality, with social and economic discomfort: but we are convinced that it is, in general, a form of business that does not create advantages for the weaker groups, compared to the socially acceptable credit forms, such as the microcredit (24) .
Other activities potentially at risk
Alongside the compro oro shops also the phenomenon of the ‘Vendo Oro’ (lit. “I sell gold”) is interesting. In other words, activities dedicated to the sale of used gold to private parties, without changing the nature of same.
Pursuant to Article 247 of the “Regulations for the implementation of the Unified Code 18th June 1931, N° 773 of the Laws of Public Security” (25) ,), the registration of those who trade in antique or used objects, or of those who trade or make precious objects must, pursuant to Article 128 of the Law, indicate the following – without blank spaces – the name, surname and domicile address of the sellers and buyers, the date of the operation, the kind of merchandise bought or sold and the agreed price. Subject to the provisions concerning the prevention of money laundering, those of Articles 126 and 128 of the Law are applied to the trade of used things, such as art objects and antiques – valuable or precious – as well as to the trade and detention on the part of the enterprises of the sector (including artisans), of new or used precious objects or precious metals and/or bearing precious stones. The above Articles of the Law are not applied to the trade of used goods that are worthless or of scare value.
The system, structured in this way, lends itself easily to fraudulent deceptions for the avoidance of tax regulations. It is also understood how, at times, the compro oro purchases goods without requiring the appropriate documentation (client profile), or purchases by paying cash figures in excess of legal limits (1,000 euros), as well as entering untruthful or artfully counterfeited information in the Public Security Register (26) . The compro oro who then wants to sell the gold, acquired in this way, to the foundry (unaware or compliant), will do it by making it appear a sale of jewellery and not in the form of scrap which, in actual fact, it is. Also the question of the system of the applicable VAT is totally superfluous in this case, being able to imagine the application of the so-called system of reverse charge or exportation (27) . The lack of traceability of the gold from the time of purchase until its fusion, allows unlimited violation of the Law until there are effective systems of prevention, which the current system does not have.
Some sociological observations
Family poverty is a consolidated phenomenon, which does not seem like diminishing. Unlike many other Countries, in Italy, the higher the number of children in a family, the more risk there is of poverty: if there is one minor child, the incidence of relative poverty rises by 10.8%, which is the average, with a second child, it rises to 12.1% and if there are three or more children, the poverty incidence is 26.1%.
Alongside the official poverty, there are impoverished people who although not exactly poor, live in situations of strong economic fragility. They are people who, especially in this critical period, have had to change their lifestyle in quite a radical way, depriving themselves of a series of goods and services they previously considered essential. The phenomenon is confirmed by certain data: in 2009, consumer credit fell 11%; personal loans registered a -13% and the salary-backed loans in September 2009 reached +8%. Making an average of these indicators, we can calculate 10% more poor people, to be added to the more than 8 million estimated.
In everyday life, the crisis is shown by the difficulty in paying the shopping, the mortgage, the bills (+14% in 2009). In the first months of 2010, some people thought that the economic crisis was on its way out, but still today, the problem appears in all its seriousness. It presents us with the difficulties of unemployment, impoverished families, of those who know that sooner or later the social safety nets will finish. Caritas knows it, the parishes and the listening centers know it. The social safety nets are not enough. In 2009 they cost 18 billion euros – an enormous amount for a useful, but fragile barrier (28) .
A growth of the disparity between the middle and richer classes is noted, particularly, in Italy. This has also occurred in other Countries like Canada, Finland, Germany, Norway and the United States. Also the social mobility is decreasing, equal to the United Kingdom and the USA. Paradoxically, but only to a certain extent, the mobility between classes – the report notes – is greater in those States with less social inequality, like the Nordic Countries.
Also the phenomenon of poverty that affects minors is increasing. On the contrary, pensioners have seen improvement in their average conditions. Compared to 20 years ago, young people and minors have a 25% greater possibility of finding themselves in a situation of poverty with respect to the average. For the one-parent family, the probability of being in a situation of deprivation is three times as great compared to the rest of the population, notwithstanding that the OECD Countries are spending three times more in family policies compared to two years ago. However, without this increase – the OECD claims – the situation would be much worse.
Faced with such a picture, for synoptic necessity, but propaedeutic to the reflections we are making, today, gold has both the characteristics of a ‘cast-iron asset’ – alternative to playing the stock market or making real estate investments – and the ‘last hope’ asset’ for that vast section of the most vulnerable part of the population which is found in temporary difficulty by reason of the contingent hardships due to the worsening of the economic crisis.
The purchasing power of families, considerably reduced within these last few years, has led to a change in priorities of families and individuals, passing from a saving mentality to one of survival or the fatiguing effort to maintain the standard of living.
As well as cutting down on everyday needs, on food spending and on vacations, the tendency is growing significantly to resort to the compro oros which are now present in every city – and which prefer the most deprived neighbourhoods for their business.
The citizens forced to resort to such means are, however, exposed to countless risks, even though they are unaware: in addition to being forced to sell their jewellery, often memories of family and symbols of affection, the citizen must take great care to avoid encountering someone who wants to speculate on this fragility. The compro oro shops – the propagation of which has alarmed many associations concerned with the defence of the consumer – proliferate and profit from the increase in the value of gold and the economic crisis that has hit our Country, and at times, are in business solely for speculative reasons and often, to commit swindles or money laundering (29) .
The criminological aspect
News reports have brought to light a series of irregularities in this sector, among which (although incomplete), the avoidance of legislative regulations, recycling, the increase of criminal phenomena and the infiltration of Mafiosi organizations; all phenomena that find their natural outlet also with the complicity of certain compro oros’.
Beyond the merely technical considerations of the development and crisis of the auriferous sector, it is necessary here to face another important topic for our purposes, which are its criminological implications.
Far from wishing to propose simplistic and rhetorical considerations, it is necessary to observe how, in recent years, the gold sector has been under the observation of organized crime, which has found in this sector an optimum system to launder money and assets deriving from crime. This does not mean to say that all the compro oro shops have, as their only function, the generation of illicit goods and money: on the contrary, we are firmly convinced that the majority of the operators perform their commercial activities honestly, in full compliance with the rules. But while there remains even one merchant who uses this system to launder dirty money, the considerations in this paper are valid.
The first element to observe is, without doubt, the exaggerated growth of these activities, which, for example, have increased in Rome and the province by 20% in one year. And those who have seen this phenomenon are convinced that behind the sign ‘Compro Oro’, there is a submerged world operating on the edge of legality, but linked with illegality in various ways (30) .And that business has a name, to which correspond crimes of usury, recycling and the receiving of stolen goods.
The major difficulty of control lies in the speed with which many open, close and change ownership within a period as short as ten days.
The deception lies in this: in those ten days. Just as the large scale organized crime – ‘ndrangheta, mafia, camorra – purchases big businesses, paying three times as much as their real value, registering them under bogus names, also in the compro oro activities, a system is active that makes use of bridgeheads; owners of companies – almost always foreign – which within a week these companies pass to other subjects, crossing countries to lose track of the original purchaser.
It should be remembered that the Law stipulates that owners must keep the gold on hand for 10 days with the source of provenance entered in a special register. If the owners purchase a large quantity of gold from a band of criminals, they will resell it, and once they have got rid of the ‘dirty spoils’, they will close shop immediately. Control by the administrative police is, therefore, impossible and discovery of the provenance of the ‘ill-gotten treasure’ is also impossible. Thus, the shop passes into the hands of a new owner, to whom authentic and fake needy people continue to bring gold and valuables.
The system that is used always follows the same scheme: when the organization needs to clean up some money through gold, it opens or reopens existing activities, takes on large quantities, paying 10% to those who deliver it, closes the activity following the end of the operation and then transfers ownership. All this in the span of just a few days.
The difficulty for the Police Force is being able to understand and demonstrate how much the organized crime pulls the strings of the legalized businesses through the licenses issued (certainly not wittingly) by the competent authorities.
The crimes that the compro oros’ could potentially commit are various. The most common is certainly the crime of tax evasion. The VAT is evaded in the majority of cases by exploiting the system of the reverse charge, an instrument provided for by Law for the gold sector.
To date, the owner of a compro oro that is not registered with the Banca d’Italia cannot benefit from the reverse charge.
The reverse charge is defined by the Article 17, Para 5. of the Presidential Decree of the Republic N° 633 of 1972, which establishes that it is applicable to only two categories of assets, i.e.:
1) taxable sale of gold for investment referred to by Article 10, N° 11 of the same Presidential Decree 633;
2 ) sales of gold material and sales of semi-finished products of a purity equal or superior to 325 thousandths.
Therefore, concerning those goods which, pursuant to Art. 1 Para 1 letter a) and b) Law 7/2000, can be traded exclusively by the ‘professional traders in gold’ duly registered in the professional Roll instituted at the Banca d’Italia, according to Art. 1 Para 3 Law 7/2000.
It must be remembered that as well as the ‘semi-finished’ also the ‘scrap jewellery’ comes under the classification of ‘gold material’, that is; gold jewellery which is damaged or beyond repair, as established by the cited Resolution 375/E of 28/11/2002 by the Revenue Agency, which states that “under the term ‘gold material’ are included all forms of raw gold intended for subsequent processing, and that the characteristic of a ‘semi-finished’ is constituted by it being a product without a specific use or function, likewise declaring that it is considered, therefore, that the aforementioned sale of scrap gold jewellery – in itself not liable for utilization by the end consumer – to a person who does not intend it (and cannot intend it) for final consumption, but employs it in an intermediate process of manufacture and transformation, can be treated as a sale of gold material or semi-finished”.
Therefore, since the ‘scrap jewellery’ falls within the definition of ‘gold material’, and it being known that the only persons qualified to effect this type of commerce, pursuant to Article 1, Para 3, Law 7/2000, are those who are regularly enrolled in the Register of ‘professional traders in gold’, it excludes any type of activity exercised in this sense by subjects who are authorized only in the commerce of valuables, i.e. finished objects, which means, obviously, the compro oros’. It is not, therefore, conceivable that a subject who is not enrolled in the professional Register can sell scrap gold to companies specialized in the recovery of precious metals, such as secondary raw materials.
As far as the sales of ‘finished objects’ are concerned, although these objects are directed to companies which then re-employ them in processes of transformation, these sales cannot be made benefiting from the reverse charge, as established by the Resolution 161/E of 26/10/2001 of the Revenue Agency, which asserts that “products like ring settings or bracelet and necklace fasteners have completed their specific productive process and must be considered finished products and not raw material intended for further processing”.
Therefore, considered that the objects in question cannot be included in the semi-finished sector, it must be concluded that for them, “the mechanism in Article 17, Para 5 cannot be applied; the tax, therefore, must be paid in the ordinary way”.
It is extremely clear, therefore, that a compro oro who is not enrolled in the Register of ‘professional gold traders’, not being able, in any way, to trade in ‘semi-finished’ objects or ‘scrap jewellery’ with the application of the reverse charge to these sales – by entering the two categories of goods within the definition of ‘gold material’ – is obliged to sell the used valuables by applying the ‘ordinary methods’ to the sales, that is the VAT rates of 21% or in the margin, as granted to the used goods.
The Law allows an ordinary compro oro to purchase jewellery classifiable as ‘scrap’, as long as this occurs only ‘occasionally’ and not in a professional way. In other words that this kind of purchase does not represent a constant and continuous practice for the activity.
To be able to transform ‘finished’ objects into ‘scrap’, it is necessary that the effective transformation of same is evidenced by a regular invoice issued by an appropriately authorized laboratory – in fact,a compro oro. Therefore, a company authorized to conduct trade only in ‘finished’ objects, cannot effect alteration, transformation or further processing of the precious metals (31) .
Another problem in this sector is the multiple uses of non-regulation scales, which falsify, to the detriment of the client, the weight of the gold. In addition, the fact that the scales are not actually monitorable by the client causes an imbalance which, in our view, violates the rights of the consumer, who is, in fact, devoid of any protection.
Many cases reported to the competent authorities and consumer associations (like Federconsumatori and Adusbef) have revealed the high frequency of the risk in dealing with operators who speculate on such situations.
The electronic scales, if approved, are allowed (32) as long as they are submitted to periodic verification as described by the Article 12 of the Unified Code of the metric laws, subsequently substituted by the Law 182 of 28/03/2000.
The instruments for the direct sale to the public must clearly supply the client with all the essential information regarding the weighing operation, and in the case of instruments which include price indication, the exact calculation of the price of the product to be purchased.
Certain scales of the compro oros’ are able to falsify the weight to the extent of 50%, with obvious detrimental consequences for the client (who, for a necklace weighing approximately 17 grams of gold risks being cheated by at least 170 euros).
The two above mentioned associations have listed a series of indications to render these operations less insecure. Above all, it is necessary to know clearly what the real gold quotations are at an international level, to avoid receiving less money than is due: the most exact price at the present moment is circa 38 euros per gram, but the quotation varies daily. Obviously, it is always advisable to weigh one’s gold before the weighing by the dealer, so as to understand immediately, whether or not your gold has been weighed on manipulated scales.
Recycling and illegal practices: the competitive advantage of the compro oro
The widespread habit is that of buying used precious objects from private citizens or from other compro oros’ and re-selling them directly to foundries or companies specialized in the recovery of precious metals.
Nothing could prohibit this practice if the sold goods were qualified for what they really are, that is, used gold jewellery, but in the widest casuistry, they are qualified as ‘scrap’. This device of arbitrarily changing the nature of the goods is to evade the VAT, benefiting from that established by the Law N° 633/77 (Article 17, Para 5).
With this provision, therefore, is granted the non-taxation on those goods which, due to their nature, cannot have other destination but industrial processing. Consequently, the sales of semi-finished and scrap gold are not subject to VAT because they are equivalent to those goods which are not useable for purposes other than industrial processing, therefore, totally different from the used gold jewellery which can, instead, have infinite life cycles and, consequently, is subject to the payment of taxes.
The manager of an ordinary compro oro, who intends to operate according to the Law should sell the valuables for what they really are, i.e. used goods, specifying in the invoice the real nature of the objects (that is, ‘used gold jewellery’) and apply, therefore, to the amount of the invoice, the ordinary tax rate or, as permitted for used goods, in the margin. On the contrary, in many cases, the illegal operator buys the valuables (not scrap) from private citizens and subsequently, resells them directly to the foundries or other specialized companies, attributing to the nature of the sold goods – both on the Transportation Document and on the Invoice – the status of scrap. Even the most inexperienced auditors, carrying out a check, may ask what happened to the valuables purchased by the operator and regularly recorded in the Trade Register (e.g. 1 bracelet, 1 necklace etc.,) and where, on the contrary, had he acquired the scrap that he declares to have sold to the foundry.
The Law 7/2000 sanctions under Article 4, whoever performs such activity (Art 1, Para 3), without having given notice to the FIU, that is, in absence of the prescribed requirements, is punished with 6 months to 4 years imprisonment and a fine from 2,000 to 10,000 euros. The same punishment applies to whoever performs the activity provided for in Article 2, Para 1 (Financial operations in gold), without being entitled to do so.
Summarizing the foregoing, we deduce, therefore, that the ordinary owner of an individual company, manager of a compro oro, cannot assume the functions of a professional operator and trade, in a continuous way, in goods of an industrial character, such as scrap or semi-finished goods. Just as he cannot alter the nature of the goods (used gold jewellery) and transform it into scrap (operation reserved exclusively to professional traders) for the purpose of evading the application of VAT.
Receiving stolen goods and Recycling (648 - 648 bis Criminal Code)
The receiving of stolen goods and recycling is, perhaps, the most concrete danger, as well as being the most disturbing. The possibility of using compro oro shops as real laundering centers of goods and money coming from thefts, usury, extortion and other criminal activities of various kinds, has leapt into the headlines due to the growing percentage of the cases registered.
In addition to being sources of liquidity, in recent years, the compro oros’ have become – for a sort of transitive property – ‘cast-iron assets activities’. The double value that activities of this kind can have for organized crime is, therefore, evident. In fact, once laundered, the money follows two paths: on the one side, it is re-introduced into the circuit of illegal trafficking, which finishes with a subsequent “washing”, on the other side, it is invested in ‘clean’ economic sectors (e.g. building, commercial activities and so on). Another recycling system regarding jewellers, partially converted to the activity of gold purchase from private parties, provides for the exchange of such gold for used gold jewellery products, always from private individuals, originating from theft (34) .
In consideration of the foregoing, it is easy to imagine how those who carry out recycling activities can readily see the advantage of using the compro oro activities to push through – undercover – enormous sums of money and valuables coming from robberies or other crimes. In the same way, those who manipulate dirty money can utilize same, both by investing it in this activity, through the opening of chains of shops in franchising (or single agencies), and by contaminating the balance sheets of same, watering them down with illicit money.
The lack of adequate instruments of traceability, sifting and monitoring the valuables that arrive to be liquidated in the compro oros’, added to the fact, that more and more frequently the compro oro shops are lodging themselves in suburban neighbourhoods, and, therefore, being more exposed to criminal phenomena, reduces, in fact, the possibilities of control. The lack of such information, combined, too often, with an incomplete technical and juridical-fiscal preparation of the controllers themselves, does not allow the owner of the activity the ability of supplying any information on the valuables, as well as ascertaining their probable illicit provenance.
Not to mention, of course, that if an operator utilizes illicit funds to open or finance his own activity, not only does he commit a crime sanctioned by the criminal code, but commits an irregularity against the honest operators who finance their own activities with legal money flows from ordinary banking channels.The above consideration is, perhaps, one of the reasons why certain of these activities can utilize, notwithstanding the general crisis, prohibitively expensive forms of publicity, among which are many newspaper spaces, as well as publicity billboards of considerable dimensions.
Usury and criminal conspiracy
Another case of fraudulent utilization of the compro oro activities concerns the crime of usury. In essence, on many occasions people in financial difficulties go to these shops and leave objects as collateral, receiving in exchange an amount of money significantly lower than the real value; when, at a later date, the subjects wish to redeem their property, they are forced to pay higher figures with the application, in fact, of usury interests, ascertained, at times, at over 1000% annually.
The avant-garde of organized crime uses the compro oro shops – not necessarily all bearing the same name or belonging to the same commercial network (e.g. trademark franchising) – to expand their criminal activity throughout the widest possible portion of the territory, so as to control greater flows of money and valuables deriving from the above mentioned crimes: a totalizing impact on the territory with evident detriment to consumers, forced against their will to turn to illicit activities and to the System in general, for the social damage created (35) .
From the consumer side, the potential clientele of these shops is strongly advised to pay careful attention to those dishonest operators who apply rates that are not congruous with the real value of gold at the time of sale, or rather, that artfully manipulated instruments are used for the purpose of concealing the real weight of the object to be sold. Unfortunately, such statements come from the practice and experience of those who are forced, although reluctantly, to accept unfair and dishonest conditions of sale, in order to obtain the needed money, giving way to the speculation of dishonest retailers (36)
Situation abroad: overview
The phenomenon of the compro oros’ is widespread an affects, most particularly, the States that have shown greater sensitiveness to the effects of the economic crisis. Among these are certainly Italy, Spain, Greece and France.
From official data an increase in license requests has emerged: 90% of the 224 banks that operate on the Hellenic Peninsula were registered with the competent authorities in 2011 alone (37) The sale of valuable objects, already begun in 2011, was accelerated by the prices of gold, the ‘cast-iron asset’ during any difficult situation in the world economy. Last year, according to a Hellenic newspaper, gold rose to more than 1500 dollars per ounce, marking the historic peak. The sudden rise was unprecedented; if one considers that the yellow metal at the beginning of the crisis, in 2008, was around 800 dollars an ounce (38) .Also in Greece, the phenomenon has involved not only the metal banks, which are widespread over the entire territory and, especially, in districts of high poverty risk, but also the jewellers that have converted their activities. Linked to the compro oro phenomenon is that of tax evasion: without an adequate fiscal regulation, Greece currently suffers from regulatory uncertainty in terms of foregone tax revenue, quantifiable in 15 billion euros yearly, for the gold sector alone. In fact, it is thought that 80% of the metal banks do not communicate the totality of the operations performed (39) .
A Country like Spain – after years of growth and now heavily hit by the crisis – is also affected by the compro oros’. The increase of their presence is nothing more than the normal reaction of the market to the increased demand for a service, a phenomenon that should be evaluated in itself as a normal side effect, behind which are concealed much more important and serious causes, which are not easily solved.
Also here, the gold that is purchased by the private individual, in the vast majority of cases, is not resold to the end consumer, but sold in block to the foundries to be re-used as pure gold for the realization of ingots or other industrial uses.
This process of gold recycle gives rise to an almost inexhaustible demand for the metal. With reference to the regulations in force, it should be noted how the ‘Organic Law’ 1/1992, concerning the protection of public security, Article 13,1 establishes that the ‘Ministry of Internal Affairs can order, by the prescribed provisions, the adoption of measures of security in the industrial, commercial and service facilities for the purpose of preventing the commission of acts’.
The above Article refers, in the first place, to all the institutes involved in the trade of jewellery and silverware, not specifying or differentiating the type of commerce that takes place within them; in the second place, it refers to other facilities for the production and exhibition of jewellery.
Lastly, France has issued a series of measures to limit the development of such activities, considered to be dangerously close to criminality. On the example of the Austrian Government (40) to restrict the sale of precious metals to a maximum of counter-value of 20,000 dollars per transaction – at that time corresponding to 11 ounces only – the French authorities, to discourage the purchase of gold and silver, approved an even more draconian provision.
A recently modified French law established that any retail buying or selling transaction of ferrous or non-ferrous metals must be made by cashier’s check, postal transfer or credit card; the total amount of the transaction cannot exceed the amount established by Decree. The non-compliance of such provisions is punishable by a ‘fifth class’ sanction, thereby confirming that any amount superior to 450 euros or 600 euros «must be paid by bank transfer». «According to independent observers, the law has been approved for the purpose of curbing the illegal sales of stolen metals, such as copper and steel. The new law makes it prohibited, in France, the buying or selling of gold and silver above 600 dollars, and illegal, the purchase in cash of even one ounce of gold or 18 ounces of silver». Beyond said value the purchase would be possible by means of bank transfer only (41) .
The United States, badly hit by the financial-economic crisis of 2007, rushed quickly for shelter to provide legislation adequate to the sector, also here in strong rise, thanks to the steady growth of the price of gold.
The legislation approved at federal level in 2009 (Gold Act Legislation), which moves from the scheme dictated by the State legislation of Florida, approved in 2008, (Florida cash for gold law), identifies a dual outline: on the one side, a greater defence of the consumer, often victim of deception or anyway, placed in a condition of subordination due to the necessity of cash; on the other side, a specific legislation for the sales of gold on line, very widespread in the United States, but which can hide traps referable to the proper verification and, in general, to the safeguards against money laundering.
To make what has been suggested effective, in our Country, certain indispensable instruments would be necessary:
- a legislative intervention that is adequate to the needs of an increasingly growing sector (by the introduction of the obligation of the anti-recycling safeguards for all the operators in the gold market; for more stringent requirements for entry into the sector, and the conferring of greater inspection powers on the Supervisory Authorities;
- an adequate monitoring of the operators of the gold market through the introduction of a Register for the so-called compro oros’ so that the entry/exit movements of the operators of the sector can be surveyed, in order to cope with the phenomenon of the so-called “Ballet of the licenses”.
To do this, we believe it is necessary to make a capillary ‘mapping’, immediately, of the entire national territory, to comply with that need for transparency referred to by the Minister of Internal Affairs during the course of the recent hearing in the Anti-mafia Commission.
From the work done so far, it shows how the information collected (in the period of January and February 2012) demonstrates two elements: the first, the non-correspondence between what emerges from the research by means of the databases and what is actually found with a control on the territory; the second, is that the information obtained can no longer be considered valid since it has become obsolete. In fact, it is believed that as early as the time of the elaboration of the data itself, it is constantly changing and the emerged data thus provides proof of a compro oro that we can define ‘out of control’.
Per approfondimenti l’autore suggerisce:
- Eric Czotscher, Oro: guida all’investimento, 2008 FAZ-Institut.
- R. Campanini e F. Cappio, Investire in oro. Un’alternativa per il piccolo risparmiatore: guida all’investimento, Il Sole 24 Ore, 2012.
- R. Razzante: Oro amaro: brevi osservazioni sul settore dei compro oro, Wall Street Italia, 26 settembre 2011; L’oro della criminalità organizzata, Wall Street Italia, 25 novembre 2011; Compro-oro: qui ci vuole un albo d’oro, Il Mondo, 4 maggio 2012; Quanto nero c’è nel metallo giallo?, Il Fatto quotidiano, 7 maggio 2012; Compro oro, tra truffa e racket, l’Espresso, 11 giugno 2012; Evasori e mafie sulle tracce dell’oro, Panorama, 17 giugno 2012.
(1) AIRA and ENOPO have recently collaborated in the drafting of a report on the sector, and in a cognitive investigation presented respectively to the Anti-mafia Parliamentary Commission and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
(2) AIRA-ENOPO estimates.
(3) Published in the Gazzette Ufficiale N° 16 of the 21st January 2000.
(4) The Law N° 7 of the 17th January 2000, clarifies in Art. 1. what is meant by ‘gold’, establishing in Paras 1 and 2 that it must concern gold for investment, meaning by this, gold in the form of ingots, small plates of a weight accepted by the gold market, but, however, exceeding 1 gram, of purity equal or superior to 995 thousandths, whether or not represented by securities; gold coins of purity equal or superior to 900 thousandths, as well as coins having the same characteristics; the gold material different from that referred to in letter a) for prevalently industrial use, be it in semi-finished form of purity equal or superior to 325 thousandths, be it in any other form and purity.
(5)Pursuant to Article 127 the manufacturers, traders, brokers of precious objects are obliged to hold a license from the Questura. Those who request the license must prove they are registered, for industry or trade of precious objects, in the records of the tax on income from movable wealth and in those of the taxes of operation and resale, that is, must demonstrate the reason for the failure to register in such records. The license lasts until the 31st December of the year in which it was issued. It is valid for all the operations of sale of the precious objects belonging to the same person or the same company, even if they are found in different locations. The obligation of the licensing requirements, as well as being the responsibility of traders, manufacturers and foreign operations who intend to trade, in the territory of the State, in precious objects imported by them, it is also the responsibility of their agents, travelling salesmen, representatives and canvassers. These must prove their qualified positions through certification issued by the political authority of the place where the company has headquarters, endorsed by the Italian Consulate. While Article 128 establishes that the manufacturers, traders, operators and the other persons indicated in Articles 126 and 127 cannot perform operations on antique and used objects, if not with the people with identity cards or other documents bearing a photograph, originating from the State administration. They must keep a register of the operations, referred to in the first Para, that they perform daily, in which are noted the generalities of those with whom the same operations are carried out and the other indications prescribed by the Regulation. Such register must be exhibited to officials and agents of the public security, upon their request. The persons who carry out operations referred to in the first Para, with the above mentioned operators are required to demonstrate their identity in the ways prescribed. The operator who has bought precious objects cannot alter or dispose of them until 10 days after the purchase, unless it concerns objects bought at fondachieri (scrap metal wholesalers), manufacturers or at a public auction.
(6) At present, Italy is the largest exporter of jewellery abroad.
(7) Johnson Matthey, Mocatta & Goldsmith, Samuel Montagu, Rothschild e Sharps Pixley.
(8) There are many elements that can influence the trend of the price of gold. For example, sufficient to think that a strike in an extracting mine can slow down production.
(9) The wacky world of gold, the Economist, 2nd June 2011.
(10) The August crisis re-evaluated the gold of the Banca d’Italia by 9 billion. F. Ninfole, Milan Finanza, 08/09/2011.
(11) The Arezzo gold companies that renounced carrying out their activities in the last two-year period are 3.7%. From an initial data of 1,400, they decreased to 1,320 in April of last year. By mid-year, the cessations had scaled down to 1,292. The last slide gave a further coup de grace to local businesses, making the companies fall to an even lower level, 1,271 units. The pole goldsmith of Alexandria stopped at minus 2% with only 900 firms and Vicenza at minus 4.62% with 723 companies (‘Gold, the roller-coaster price still paralyzes the sector’, La Nazione, Arezzo, 30/09/2011).
(12) Lieutenancy Legislative Decree of the 17th May 1945 N° 331, Article 2 The Office has for its object the purchase and sale by spot and forward contracts, gold, foreign currency, banknotes of State and foreign banks, foreign and Italian securities issued abroad, Italian securities issued in foreign currency, and generally, to perform all operations related to these purposes. The Office has the monopoly of the gold trade in reference to the purchase and sale of gold abroad. The Office may propose to the Secretary of the Treasury regulations concerning the trade of gold within the Country, designed to ensure its monopoly of the gold trade with foreign countries.
(13) At the top of this category, there are ingots of 400 ounces, 12.5 kilograms: the standard for the international transactions utilized by financial institutions, large companies, State and central banks, but accessible also to the single investor who is able to pay the approximate sum of 200,000 euros necessary to purchase a single piece at the quotation price of the day
(14) 14 The gold differs from the gold jewellery insofar as the second consists in products manufactured using precious metals as ligands for the production of jewellery with gems
(15) Etf, exchange-traded fund; Etc, exchange-traded-commodity; Etn, Exchange-Traded-Notes.
(16) Art. 128 Tulps.
(17) 17 See preceding note.
(18) Puglia is a Region which is particularly affected by the phenomenon of the compro oros’ and in many cases has shown a criminal connotation of the activity. This is testified by the Police investigations, which have led to the arrest of numerous individuals on charges of re-cycling, receiving stolen goods, usury, resulting in the closure of many activities.
(19) Data Movimprese - Infocamere.
(20) The data refers to the number of compro oro shops and the jewellers that have, also partially, converted their activities to the purchase of gold from private individuals. Data (ANOPO).
(21) Data Federdettaglianti goldsmiths (www.ofaridettaglianti.it )
(22) Istat Denomination.
(23) Gold is bought at a lower price with respect to its value on the market continues Zamagni, and the phenomenon is legalized because those who turn to these people are desperate and are not able to get to the end of the month. The 'Compro Oro' is a direct consequence of the fact that in a state of crisis, access to bank credit is more and more limited. To block the phenomenon and implement an effective remedy, it is necessary to develop forms of microcredit because one cannot fight certain situations with whining and moralizing, but with initiatives able to increase credit to the consumer. Associazione Microfinanza, Bologna, ONLUS
(24) A study of the Antiusura Ambulatorio (anti-usury clinic), has described the situation very clearly and affirms: The diffusion of the compro oros’ is a phenomenon which has been seen for some time. Often, one turns to these activities in situations of need, weakness and with the power to negotiate equably at zero. Where there is suffering and the rules are ineffective, there, crime will insinuate itself. The 'compro oros’, according to the Association, are a symbol of widespread desperation, for which one does not hesitate to undersell the sentimental value, even before the economic value, of the objects that pass from hand to hand over the counters of these activities. Desperation which means loneliness, economic suffering and over-indebtedness. Hardship that criminals have learned to make profitable by insinuating themselves into a context of twilight legislation resulting in crimes which are intolerable and unjustified in a society that wishes to call itself civilized. Too often, behind these activities the new usuries are hidden.
(25) Published in the Gazzette Ufficiale, 26th June 1940, N° 149. Suppl. Ord.
(26) Recent investigations have shown that some compro oros’ have registered inexistent operations in the names of unwitting subjects, sometimes names were taken from public lists (e.g. telephone directories) or from the database of actual habitual clients without their knowledge, but for the sole purpose, on the part of the compro oro, of concealing the real provenance of goods
On this point see provisions of the Inland Revenue in Resolution N° 375/E of 2002.
(27) On this point see provisions of the Inland Revenue in Resolution N° 375/E of 2002.
(28)In free fall 'X Report on poverty and social exclusion in Italy, by Caritas Italiana' Fondazione Zancan, by Il Mulino 2010. Unfortunately, more recent data is even less optimistic.
(29)Palermo, Bari, Roma, Arezzo, Milano and Genoa are the cities in which cases have recently emerged of fraud and recycling, imputable to compro oro shops.
(30) 'Organized crime that smaller one the one that is fighting and rivaling to take over the territory in Rome, today, launders its money through these commercial activities', declared Gianni Ciotti, Secretary General of the Police Union Silp, Cgil of Rome. This is also apparent from the Hearing of the Prefect of Rome, Giuseppe Pecoraro, at the Anti-mafia Parliamentary Commission, on September 28th last.
(31) The 'occasional' purchase refers to those goods that belong to the category of the 'semi-finished, investment gold and gold material. Goods that in the professional way can be bought and sold exclusively by subjects that are entered in the special Register instituted at the Banca d’Italia. The trade of finished objects like used gold jewellery can, on the contrary, be carried out by the compro oros’ without limitations.
(32) Pursuant to the Legislative Decree 29th December 1992, N° 517. Article 10.
(33) For a recent reconstruction of the cases, refer on all to R. Razzante, 'Recycling in the Case Law', Giuffrè, Milan 2011.
(34)Awaiting discussion in Parliament, at the present time, is the Bill (4281), the purpose of which is the rationalization of the sector in order to curb the spreading of the criminal phenomenon connected to it. And yet, in our opinion, the Bill as it is conceived does not respond to the needs of this sector. Especially when, in it, it excludes the ‘occasional’ business of buying gold from private individuals, (for example, by the partially converted jewellers) from the safeguards requested from the professional operators and compro oros’. Such a shortcoming is not justifiable only because of the ‘occasional nature’ of the activity, since the interest of the criminality is to exploit all possible channels to launder goods and money deriving from crimes, without arousing any kind of suspicion. The exclusion of certain activities from the anti-recycling obligations (and from other safeguards in the proposed Bill) allows those who have a criminal interest to act with or without the willingness of the operator, escaping from any kind of financial control.
(35) See, for example, the case of the operation called 'Bitter gold' carried out by the Guardia di Finanza of Terni on the 22nd September 2011.
(36)In this regard, the AIRA and ANOPO associations have drawn up a series of ‘points of advice’ for consumers for the purpose of avoiding possible scams:
- Quotation. Before selling your valuables, it is necessary to compare the present price of gold. The price of gold is in continual variation and its value is established every day by the fixing of London. The quotations are published daily in the newspapers and on the Web.
- Quality. (Purity of gold). It is important to know the quality of your gold, that is: the quantity of pure gold contained in the objects you intend to sell. The advertising of the compro oros’ is often misleading because it refers to the price of the pure gold (24 or 22 k), while in the majority of cases, jewellery contains a lower quantity of gold (18k, that is: composed of 75 parts of gold and the remainder, of other metals). Therefore, to know what will really be paid for our gold, it is necessary to subtract 25% from the price paid for pure gold.
-Actual weight. Go to gold buyers, only after having ascertained the real weight of the object (even if inaccurate). In many cases, those who buy gold taking advantage of the good faith of the seller, falsifying the value of the offer with rigged scales, or tampered with in such a way as to furnish an inferior evaluation compared to the real one.
- Compare the offers. Do not stop at the first offer, but compare the offers of various buyers. This because, the evaluation is not unique and in many cases can vary by 80% from the starting out price. Look for the compro oro that applies the most advantageous conditions.
- Professionalism. Those who consult a compro oro, a trusted jeweller or a professional operator, it is important to require the maximum professionalism from who buys our gold, understood as honesty and the ability to work well. To expect transparency and completeness of information is assumed for legality and quality.
- Cash payment. Since September 2011, the limit to the use of cash of 1000 euros is in force. Some gold traders continue to pay sums in cash above the threshold set by law. This practice, apart from violating the law, entails an administrative penalty, the value of which could amount to 40% of the operation. So that, when the value of the sold jewellery is superior to 1000 euros, the operator is obliged to pay with a traceable means (transfer, cheque etc.)
- Identification documents. In addition, the Law requires that the compro oro must enter the operation of purchase and the identification details of the seller in a public security Register. Be wary of anyone who does not ask for your identification document. He is breaking the Law.
- Receipt. Although the present legislation does not require the purchaser of the gold to issue a receipt, many operators have independently introduced this measure which, in our view, in an optimum system to evaluate the transparency of the operation. In this way, the client can be certain of the evaluation, the weight and the price of the object sold.
- Exchange. In the case of exchange of your ‘used’ gold for ‘new’ gold, pay attention to the evaluation. Normally, in the exchange, the estimation of the value of the ‘old’ (scrapped) gold is subtracted from the purchase price of the new gold, but the evaluation is made based on the percentage of pure gold contained therein. Very often, the system of the exchange will be more convenient to the compro oro, than the classic method of evaluation of gold in cash, because the items for sale have already incorporated in the price the margin of the seller. At this point, the compro oro can recover that higher price at which he evaluates your gold, in the form of the profit he would make in reselling his product.
(37) See 'Gold buyers tempt Greeks facing hard times'. New York Times 10th December 2011.
(38) Vedi 'Gold, silver tumble as Greek deadlock drives dollar higher', in Ekathimerini, 9 maggio 2012.
(39) See 'Oro, gioielli, i greci adesso per vivere si vendono tutto' (Gold, jewels, the Greeks sell everything to survive) in Linkiesta 28th January 2012.
(40) According to a new Austrian policy, a private individual who wishes to buy gold will be limited to buying up to the value of 15,000 euros a time, officially making gold a ‘restricted’ commodity..
(41) Article L112-6 modifié par LOI n° 2011-900 du 29 juillet 2011 - art. 51 (V).
I. - Ne peut être effectué en espèces le paiement d’une dette supérieure à un montant fixé par décret, tenant compte du lieu du domicile fiscal du débiteur et de la finalité professionnelle ou non de l’opération.
Au-delà d’un montant mensuel fixé par décret, le paiement des traitements et salaires est soumis à l’interdiction mentionnée à l’alinéa précédent et doit être effectué par chèque barré ou par virement à un compte bancaire ou postal ou à un compte tenu par un établissement de paiement.
Toute transaction relative à l’achat au détail de métaux ferreux et non ferreux est effectuée par chèque barré, virement bancaire ou postal ou par carte de paiement, sans que le montant total de cette transaction puisse excéder un plafond fixé par décret. Le non-respect de cette obligation est puni par une contravention de cinquième classe.
II. - Nonobstant les dispositions du I, les dépenses des services concédés qui excèdent la somme de 450 euros doivent être payées par virement.
III. - Les dispositions qui précèdent ne sont pas applicables :
a) Aux paiements réalisés par des personnes qui sont incapables de s’obliger par chèque ou par un autre moyen de paiement, ainsi que par celles qui n’ont pas de compte de dépôt ;
b) Aux paiements effectués entre personnes physiques n’agissant pas pour des besoins professionnels;
c) Au paiement des dépenses de l’Etat et des autres personnes publiques.
IV. - Les dispositions qui précèdent ne sont pas applicables :
a) Aux paiements réalisés par des personnes qui sont incapables de s’obliger par chèque ou par un autre moyen de paiement, ainsi que par celles qui n’ont pas de compte de dépôt ;
b) Aux paiements effectués entre personnes physiques n’agissant pas pour des besoins professionnels.