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    » 06/08/2009, 00.00

    ASIA – ITALY

    US government securities seized from Japanese nationals, not clear whether real or fake



    Bonds worth US$ 134.5 billion are seized. This is the largest financial smuggling case in history. But are they real? Concern over ‘funny money’ or counterfeit securities is spreading in Asia. The international press is silent.
    Milan (AsiaNews) –  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.

    The question now is who could or would counterfeit or smuggle these non-negotiable bonds.

    In order to stop money laundering Italian law sets a ceiling of 10,000 euros per person for importing or exporting money without declaring it. The penalty for violating the law is 40 per cent of the money seized.

    If the certificates were real, for Italy it would be like hitting the jackpot. The fine alone would amount to € (euro) 38 billion, five times the estimated cost of rebuilding quake-devastated Abruzzi region. It would help Italy’s eliminate its public deficit.

    If the certificates are fakes the two Japanese nationals could get a very lengthy jail sentence for fraud.

    As soon as the seizure was made the US Embassy in Rome was informed. Italian and US secret services were called in to assist the Italian financial police.

    Some important international financial newspapers had already reported on the existence of ‘funny money’ circulating on parallel, i.e. unofficial, financial markets.

    For AsiaNews a few points need considering:

    1.      When it comes to Italy the world press has tended to focus on Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi’s personal problems rather than on stories like the bonds smuggling affair which has been front page on Italian newspapers.

    2.      The fear of counterfeit bonds and securities has spread across Asia with the result that real securities are also considered with suspicion.

    3.      During the Second World War several countries at war printed and put in circulation perfectly counterfeit enemy money. It is also historically established that some central banks, like the Bank of Italy 65 years ago, issued the same securities twice (identical registered number and code). This way they could print more money with legal tender than they officially declared. The main difference though is that 65 years ago the world was involved in a bloody war, which is not the case today.

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    See also

    18/06/2009 ASIA – ITALY
    Mystery surrounding 134.5 “fake” billion US dollars seized in Ponte Chiasso remains
    After two weeks a US Treasury official says securities were fakes. Italy’s financial police is silent. The case is still baffling and full of discrepancies.

    30/06/2009 ASIA-ITALY
    Everything suggests that the American bonds seized at Chiasso are real
    Official U.S. sources continue to say they are fakes, but there is no news that American experts have inspected them in person. Arrested for another matter, the director of a U.S. radio who says the bonds are real and Japan was trying to sell in Switzerland, not trusting the ability of the United States to honour its debt.

    23/06/2009 ASIA – ITALY
    Securities seized in Chiasso still between a wall of silence and a flow of disinformation
    Neither Italian nor US authorities have officially said whether the seized US Treasury bills worth US$ 134.5 billion are real or fake. A US Treasury spokesperson said they were fakes, but acknowledged that he only saw them in a photo on the internet. For Italy’s financial police, if they are forgeries, they are practically indistinguishable from the real stuff. Both the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan have an interest in denying their authenticity.

    12/06/2009 ASIA – ITALY
    Seizure of US government bonds from two Japanese men in Italy raises questions
    Seized US bonds are worth US$ 134.5 billion. The whole affair touches a number of economic and political issues. For some the resignation of Japan’s Interior minister might be related to it.

    19/03/2008 ASIA
    Economic crisis renews prospects for world currency
    As the number of prophets of doom multiplies, the demand-side structural imbalance of the world economye, now under scrutiny in many economic studies, lies in the artificial compression of Chinese domestic consumption.



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