Centuries-old bank vaults to give up their treasures

Centuries-old bank vaults to give up their treasures

Valuable and historically important items currently held in bank vaults are to be handed over to the State under new laws being drawn up.

Thousands of items from swords, to documents, paintings, and jewellery dating as far back as the 1700s are believed to be held in safety deposit boxes in bank vaults across the country but currently cannot be accessed.

A loophole means they do not come under the current banking legislation which allows dormant accounts that have not been accessed for 15 years to be handed over the the State.

As a result, chests, boxes, and containers held in safes have remained unopened for decades and in some cases centuries.

Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív is drafting legislation to allow the se abandoned personal items inspected and boxes to be opened.

While some of the items could be valuable, Mr Ó Cuív said the boxes could also hold items of significant cultural and historic importance.

“We believe that there could be very very interesting things there and there is no point leaving them in the vaults of banks,” Mr Ó Cuív said. “These could be put on permanent display after advice from the National Museum.”

He suggested the oldest would be opened first, up to and would stop at the 1940s.

“Obviously we have to be very careful with how we do this, there would be very strict protocols, but the first thing would be to open them and do an inventory,” said Mr Ó Cuív.

Separately, the Department of Rural Affairs has commissioned Deloitte to undertake a study to consider adding safety deposit boxes under the remit of the Dormant Accounts Fund.

Deloitte has been asked to quantify the amount that could be generated from such assets and to assess the benefits and costs/risks associated with bringing additional classes of dormant assets under the Dormant Accounts Ffund.

The consultants are also examining the balance between the right to private property, potential additional costs to industry, interests of consumer protection, and the common good.

Any changes would also have to ensure the right for customers and heirs to reclaim assets transferred and the net costs to banks and other institutions holding items, both in terms of transferring assets and attempting to reunite customers with lost assets, would have to be proportionate to the value of the assets themselves.

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