January 21, 2022 5:39 pm

In the basements of the Bank of Spain, one of the safest places in the world

Impassable. The vault of the Bank of Spain is one of the safest places in the world and this is attested by 85 years of history in which no one has had the audacity to try to rob it. Except in fiction, of course.

It is located 35 meters deep and inside it houses a third of the Spanish gold reserve: 5,400 pure gold bars that are stacked five by five on shelves designed by Eiffel, in addition to some 2,000 irregular bars. The Bank of Spain has 9.1 million troy ounces of gold, which are equivalent to almost 15,000 million euros. But, according to the institution itself, in addition to the vaults, these reserves

they are found in three other foreign countries (among them, in the bank of central banks, that of International Settlements in Basel).

The path to the treasure is full of traps and obstacles Of those that are recurrent in the sci-fi scripts of titles like ‘Die Hard’ or ‘Mission Impossible’. Even the billboard of these weeks has a movie that has surrendered to the charms of number 48 Alcalá street. A group of thieves take advantage of a security oversight during the World Cup final in South Africa to infiltrate the bank’s vault and perpetrate The theft of the century taking part of the treasure of the British privateer Francis Drake.

Out of the cinema, the truth is that chances of getting out alive of an attempted robbery to the camera are practically nil. Manage to escape, impossible. If the sensors and cameras detect a threat, no matter how minimal, the moats surrounding the armored vessel – and descending another 10 meters deep – would be flooded with water and thieves would drown.

The water that presses the walls comes from two streams that were channeled to a cistern, that of ‘Las Pascualas’ and that of ‘Oropesa’, the latter being the one that feeds the Cibeles fountain, according to the Bank of Spain. The robbers who made it to the basements of the bank would be soaked in the water from the triumphs of Real Madrid, although in their case it would taste like failure.

Construction of the chamber began in 1932, was completed two and a half years later and its inauguration took place shortly before the outbreak of the War Therevile. From the institution they explain that during the war it served the families that inhabited the bank building as a refuge against the bombings, converted into bunker to protect them from the bombs that fell on the capital.

A former employee of the Bank of Spain told this newspaper in 2013 that more or less 30 years ago the civil guards who patrolled and guarded the camera lived with their families underground. The children of those guards went to school every day from these caves. A curiosity that the Bank of Spain does not confirm, although they do acknowledge that “Outside the cameras, there were employee housing”.

Another former employee of the bank who was consulted about the material assets that the chamber guards – and who prefers not to reveal his identity – assures that there Several Nazi gold bars are kept with the seal of the Third Reich, a swastika cross in the inner circle. A testimony that coincides with the one published in ABC almost 10 years ago and that is also collected in the essay ‘The gold of Moscow and the gold of Berlin’, signed in 2001 by Pablo Martín-Aceña, professor of Economic History and expert in politics monetary.

A third of the country’s gold reserves are kept in the subsoil of the Bank of Spain, but also several ingots with the seal of the Third Reich, a swastika cross inside

Few have come to see the shine of gold bars and the neat rumor mill and literature of a chamber that occupies an area of ​​2,500 square meters. One of the most widespread murmurings among bank staff is that when the time came for the maintenance manager After the armored door retired, the security company asked him to train another worker who would take the witness. The person in charge would respond with a categorical “no”, because only –they count– he would teach the trade to his son, who would currently occupy his position. From the national central bank they deny this information, alluding that the personnel selection criteria followed by the institution are quite different and they assure that they have been asked the most fanciful questions, such as if the chamber was accessed by boat. The thing about the boat seems implausible, but which way do you have to travel until you reach the treasure?

Central headquarters of the Bank of Spain, in the center of Madrid
Central headquarters of the Bank of Spain, in the center of Madrid – Bank of Spain

Three armored doors

Before drawing the route, a worker who has descended the 30 meters deep to which the camera is located reveals that anyone who is going to manipulate the ingots has to access with a special reinforced toe shoe, something normally forgotten by film costume managers when they get to the camera in fiction.

With the footwear issue solved, the truly difficult path begins under the ladder that connects the bank with the operation room. To open the first armored door, which is the only circular one and weighs 16 and a half tons, you need three keys, guarded by the controller and the cashier. This door and the other two are made of stainless steel and were manufactured in Pennsylvania by the Cobres York company. From the bank they report that their maintenance requires great care, as they must always be covered with a thin layer of petroleum jelly to prevent rust. This first door has a very small tolerance (tenths of a millimeter), so any impurity in the arch prevents its closing and the correct fitting of the anchor points.

The first door, the only circular one, weighs 16 and a half tons and is covered with a thin layer of petroleum jelly so that it does not rust
The first door, the only circular one, weighs 16 and a half tons and is covered in a thin layer of petroleum jelly so that it does not rust – Bank of Spain

After the first obstacle, an elevator is accessed from the second basement, which requires another key to descend. The water from the two streams that flow through this area would flood the vault in the event of theft and the opening valve would be operated manually from the second basement. It’s about a emergency mechanism that has never been usedas there has never been an unauthorized attempt to access the camera.

According to information published in ABC in 2013, once you exit the elevator you enter a ‘hall’ with a retractable bridge that crosses a moat and then you will find a second armored door, in this case rectangular, and weighing about 14 tons .

The next one, the third door, weighing about 9 tons, takes us to the distribution aisle from where you go to the different cameras. In this point, the thief would have the loot at his fingertips.

One of these chambers belongs to the Ministry of Justice, another to the Ministry of Economy, another to the Ombudsman, and the rest is reserved for the bank. It is in the latter where the ingots and an important collection of gold coins that are part of the Artistic-Monetary Treasury.

The gold bars are stacked five at a time on shelves designed by the engineer Eiffel
The gold bars are stacked five by five on shelves designed by the engineer Eiffel – Bank of Spain

It includes numerous American dollars, a large number of Spanish ounces and their ancient and medieval dividers and coins. The numismatic collection contains about half a million individually cataloged pieces and is one of the most important in the world, according to the institution. But there is one more detail. In the complex there is also a perimeter surveillance corridor, place where the homes of the civil guards were located, which are no longer used, whose existence the Benemérita does not confirm.

The hallway has a mirror system that, from any point, allows a glimpse of the presence of an individual. From the Bank of Spain they explain that “when the armor was inaugurated there were no security cameras that recorded video and years ago the surveillance was done through these oriented mirrors.” However, they clarify that as is evident “today technology has advanced.” Security is extreme.

The camera is one of the many scenarios of the invisible power. In it riches are kept, in others laws are drawn up. Always safe from daylight

The lowlands of Madrid

The Bank of Spain is one of the ‘hot spots’ in the Madrid subsoil. It’s not the only one. Right in front is the underground bunker of Army Headquarters, the predetermined place to conduct military operations in the event of war or terrorist attack. A few meters away, on the parallel street, nothing less than the corridors and stairs that run under the Congress of Deputies. But the basements of the largest gallery of classical painting in the world are also on the perimeter, which house more than 2,500 works of art.

The vault is one of the many stages of invisible power. In it riches are kept, in others laws are drawn up. But always safe from daylight.


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