Italy Seizes $135 BILLION Of US Bonds: Smuggling Or Counterfeit-Printing?

Update :
The Japanese Bond Smugglers Are Missing (The Business Insider)
US Treasury says bonds seized in Italy are fakes (Reuters)
The US Bearer Bonds ‘Coincidence’ (Must-read)
The Saga Of The Bearer Bonds; Smuggled Bonds Are Probably Genuine


Ok, this was rumored several days ago, but now I can find actual news reportsat least, outside the US:

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.

Those sound like Bearer Bonds – at least the Kennedy ones do.

We no longer issue those (nor does pretty much anyone else) for obvious reasons – they’re essentially money and can be had in VERY large size, making them great vehicles for various illegal enterprises.

But folks: This is $134.5 billion dollars worth.

If they’re real, what government (the only entity that would have such a cache) is trying to unload them?

If they’re fake, this is arguably the biggest counterfeiting operation ever, by a factor of many times. I’ve seen news about various counterfeiting operations over the years that have made me chuckle, but this one, if that’s what it is, is absolutely jaw-dropping.

The cute part of this is that if the certificates are real Italy just got a hell of a bonanza – their money laundering laws provide for a statutory 40% penalty for failure to declare instruments and cash in excess of $10,000 Euros, which means they’d garner a close-to-$40 billion dollar windfall.

That ought to help their budget problems!

Notice, by the way, that the US Media has totally ignored this story – even though the securities in question are allegedly US instruments.

Gee, I wonder why? Might the authorities know they’re real and be just a wee bit nervous that disclosure of a sovereign attempting to covertly dump nearly $140 billion in debt could cause a wee bit of panic, given that we’re running nearly $200 billion a month in deficits?

Inquiring minds want to know what’s really going on here.

Thursday, June 11. 2009
Posted by Karl Denninger

Source: The Market Ticker


Source: The Business Insider

italianbonds

Update: The picture on the right is of the seized “bonds”, via Italian site Adnkronos.

They look an awful lot like the bonds pictured in this story, about an age-old scam designed to confused seniors into buying fake bonds.

That being said, there was a period when the Treasury did issue high-denomination bonds up to $500 million.

Original post: This is a totally crazy story.

Asia Times: 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.

The question now is whether the bonds are real or counterfeit

Karl Denninger, who discovered the story, notes that either way, this is wild:

If they’re real, what government (the only entity that would have such a cache) is trying to unload them?

If they’re fake, this is arguably the biggest counterfeiting operation ever, by a factor of many times. I’ve seen news about various counterfeiting operations over the years that have made me chuckle, but this one, if that’s what it is, is absolutely jaw-dropping.

The cute part of this is that if the certificates are real Italy just got a hell of a bonanza – their money laundering laws provide for a statutory 40% penalty for failure to declare instruments and cash in excess of $10,000 Euros, which means they’d garner a close-to-$40 billion dollar windfall.

We’re leaning towards counterfeit on this one. Either way, we wanna know more!

Joe Weisenthal
Jun. 11, 2009

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