By Peter Stevenson
POLICE Chief Michalis Papageorgiou yesterday promised that the move to rein in gold and silver dealers, effective from July 1, would significantly reduce spiralling burglaries on the island as the easy fencing of stolen goods would come to an end.
Papageorgiou was speaking at a joint news conference in Nicosia with the head of the Assay Office, and the president of the Association of Goldsmiths and Silversmiths.
Although the amended law to make it compulsory for precious metals dealers to register was passed in January this year, the industry was given a transition period until the end of June to fall in line with the new rules. The financial crisis has added more urgency to the issue due to more people selling items, and more burglaries taking place islandwide.
“As is known, in recent years, along with the growing trend in stealing gold, which is mostly a result of burglaries, there has been an increase in the operation of premises active in buying and selling gold and other precious metals,” said Papageorgiou, confirming that the financial crisis had compounded the problem.
He said one of the biggest issues was the fact that the owners or managers of such premises were failing to take the details of the people from whom they were buying items, or the origins of those items.
“This occasional involvement of our citizens in trading gold has found fertile ground due to an inadequate legal framework, which criminal elements have taken advantage of in order to sell their loot,” said Papageorgiou.
The first of six new provisions to the bill will require those who purchase used valuables to have their name put on the registry of used-object buyers. Jewellers or licensed merchants who buy used valuables must keep them for at least ten days before they are allowed to sell them on.
Traders who buy used items will be required to photograph the items they have purchased and keep photographic evidence for at least a year to aid in any possible police investigations into stolen goods. They will also need to record the names and items purchased and keep them in a special registry.
It will be illegal for anyone to advertise that they buy or sell precious metals unless they are a registered jeweller. The sixth provision will allow police to search the premises of any registered jeweller if they believe a crime has been committed.
Head of the Assay Office, Eftychios Ioannou said that in the last three years there had been a sharp increase in the price of gold due to recession in both the US and Europe having wiped out the value of paper securities.
“Precious metals, especially gold and silver have always been valuable but during the last three years, there has been a sharp increase in the price of gold due to the ongoing economic recession that started in America and moved to Europe and led to the collapse of other securities such as shares, investment securities and investment funds and has led many consumers to sell their gold and silver jewellery,” he said.
Ioannou said the Assay Office had already granted 55 permits for 85 premises islandwide, most of whom are jewellers, and he urged consumers to always check that a dealer was registered and has a licence number. The names are on the Assay Office’s website.
The penalty for not being registered is a fine of up to €10.000 or imprisonment for up to two years.
Fytos Neophytou, president of the Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Association said the new system of checks and balances constituted a milestone for the industry. “It will improve market surveillance as precious items will be registered and it will also regulate the buying and selling of jewellery and other precious metals,” he said.
Papageorgiou called the law “an important weapon” in the fight against crime. He said officers were already up to speed, and he urged consumers to do the same. “I would like to emphasise the importance of providing information and awareness on this subject, so the public can protect themselves from burglars and other illegal actions,” he said.
For information: The Assay Office: www.assay.org.cy or the Association; Tel 22 889830 or E-mail: [email protected] or www.jewellersassociation.org.cy