A HOARD of Gold Bars perhaps weighing up to 1600 tonnes may have been spotted by explorers searching the world's largest body of fresh water, Lake Baikal in Russia.
Explorers working with two submersibles – previously used to take the first images of the sunken Titanic – said this week they'd located "shiny metal objects" resembling Gold Bars some 400 meters below the lake's surface, near Cape Tolsty in Siberia.
Still used as a transport route when frozen in winter, Lake Baikal is reputed to have been crossed by Tsarist "White Guard" troops fleeing the Red Army – and carrying at least 500 tonnes of Gold Bars with them – in 1919.
The ice cracked beneath the railway trucks carrying the gold, legend has it. Certainly, the Gold Bullion remains unaccounted for today.
"For the time being, it is hard to say whether the gold is really [Admiral] Kolchak's," the Mir-submersible team's leader, Bair Tsyrenov, told Germany's Spiegel magazine.
"Unfortunately we did not succeed in recovering any of the Gold Bars," said a colleague, because they're too deeply stuck in the lake's mud.
Now at No.8 in the sovereign-state table of Gold Bullion holders, Russia's central bank acquired 132 tonnes of gold in the year-to-April, according to official data.
Current prime minister Vladimir Putin set a target for gold at 10% of Russia's total reserves when president in 2006. The metal currently accounts for 5.3% of reserves, says the World Gold Council.
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