Billions in US bonds seized in smuggling operation ( Italian - Swiss border )
Hot Air ^ | June 12, 2009 10:49 am | Ed Morrissey
Posted on Friday, June 12, 2009 6:35:25 PM by Ernest_at_the_Beach
For those who love a mystery, this story has more than one. Italian authorities seized more than $130 billion in bonds from two Japanese nationals as they presumably prepared to cross the border into Switzerland. No one can tell at the moment whether the bonds are genuine or counterfeit:
Italy’s financial police (Guardia italiana di Finanza) has seized US bonds worth US 134.5 billion from two Japanese nationals at Chiasso (40 km from Milan) on the border between Italy and Switzerland. They include 249 US Federal Reserve bonds worth US$ 500 million each, plus ten Kennedy bonds and other US government securities worth a billion dollar each.
Italian authorities have not yet determined whether they are real or fake, but if they are real the attempt to take them into Switzerland would be the largest financial smuggling operation in history; if they are fake, the matter would be even more mind-boggling because the quality of the counterfeit work is such that the fake bonds are undistinguishable from the real ones.
What caught the policemen’s attention were the billion dollar securities. Such a large denomination is not available in regular financial and banking markets. Only states handle such amounts of money.
First mystery: why has this gone almost completely unnoticed this week? Asia Times reported it first, and it was confirmed by the Italian news agency Adnkronos and Business Insider, the only American media outlet to take an interest so far. Adnkronos doesn’t include the story in its English-language service, however; I had to Babelfish the webpage to be sure it confirmed Asia Times. Wouldn’t the discovery of $134.5 billion in American bonds in a false bottom of a suitcase smuggled through Italy into Switzerland seem a bit newsworthy in the US?
Second mystery: Are the bonds real? If so, how did the two Japanese travelers get their hands on so much convertible cash? As the Asia Times report mentions, the denominations involved are usually used in state-to-state transactions. They would have had to steal them from a government — or perhaps a government gave them the bonds to convert in secret, covered by the Swiss insistence on secrecy in banking.
Third mystery: If the bonds are counterfeits, then how many more high-quality counterfeit US bonds are floating around Asia and Europe? Who is funding their creation, and why? Counterfeits on this scale would affect bond prices and weaken the dollar. North Korea has attempted low-rent counterfeiting of $100 bills, which the UN helped hide for a while, but this seems beyond their capabilities — and potentially a lot more destructive to the US. It would take quite a bit of support to counterfeit state-to-state bonds, almost certainly requiring some governmental involvement.
Hopefully, the press follows up on this case. I love a good mystery, but this one needs to get solved ASAP.
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