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Mystery surrounding 134.5 “fake” billion US dollars seized in Ponte Chiasso remainsby Open-Publishing - Friday 19 June 2009
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.
ASIA – ITALY
Milan (AsiaNews) – US government bonds seized by Italy’s financial police (Guardia di Finanza) at Ponte Chiasso, an the Italian town on the border with Switzerland, are “clearly fakes,” Stephen Meyerhardt, spokesman for the US Bureau of the Public Debt, is quoted as saying in a news report by the Bloomberg agency. AsiaNews contacted the divisional headquarters of Italy’s financial police in Como, which is responsible for Ponte Chiasso, asking for an explanation but none has come forth yet.
For some days the affair has been in the limelight . Importantly, at the time of the bonds were seized it was not possible to determine whether the US government bonds and US Federal Reserve certificates were real of fakes.
Right after the seizure Colonel Mecarelli, Guardia di Finanza commander in Como, said that for at least some of the securities, especially the ‘Kennedy Bonds’, there were doubts about their authenticity. As for the others, some were so well made that it was hard to tell them apart from real ones.
The seizure was carried out two weeks ago. The bonds were in the possession of two Oriental-looking individuals in their fifties with Japanese passports. The two men, were travelling from Milan to Chiasso, in Switzerland, on a local train used primarily by Italian workers commuting to-and-fro Switzerland for work.
At the customs office both men said they had nothing to declare but a check by financial police agents revealed a false bottom in their respective suitcases, each containing a fortune in US securities.
Also inside the agents found extensive and detailed original bank documents about the bonds.
If the latter were real the two Asian men had in their possession (although not necessarily in their ownership) a big chunk of the US debt which would have made them the fourth largest creditors of the United Sates.
Despite what US Treasury spokesman Meyerhardt said, and until more information is forthcoming from Italy’s financial police in Como for AsiaNews the mystery is still there.
Under Italian law when law enforcement agencies seize fake bonds or counterfeit money they are under the obligation to arrest the bearers. And in order to avoid misappropriation, the agency seizing the material, in this case the financial police, must quickly proceed to its destruction (i.e. incineration).
However, in case of real securities, after the securities holders are identified, the financial police must release them immediately after issuing a statement of confiscation and imposing a fine valued in this case at € 38 billion (US$ 53.4 billion). In this case, why were the two men released right away without any fine imposed?
That is not the only discrepancy. It is not clear how statements by US Treasury spokesman Meyerhardt and Italian financial police can be reconciled. For the former the bonds “are clearly fakes”; for the latter, speaking at the start of this whole affair, some bonds were indistinguishable from the real ones when it comes to quality and detail.
Italy’s Guardia di Finanza has a reputation for being a highly specialised and expert financial police agency. How could it be so easily duped! And if the bonds are “clearly fakes” why did it take US authorities two weeks to find out.
Another discrepancy is the fact that, along with the securities, original and recent bank documents were seized as proof of their authenticity.
If what Meyerhardt says is true, some major financial institutions have been deceived by the securities carried by the two Asian men. This would be a bombshell and raise serious questions as to how many bank assets are actually made up of securities that for Meyerhardt are “clearly fakes.”
If counterfeit securities of such high quality are in circulation the world’s monetary system, let alone that of the United States, is in danger. International trade and exchanges could come to a halt.
Whether it is counterfeit money or money laundering, what happened is potentially more dangerous for the stability of the international system than the results of Iran’s elections.
If the bonds are real it means someone with a lot of cash no longer trusts the US dollar as a reserve currency. If this is the case then it would spell the end of the Bretton Woods system and most likely negatively impact world trade.
Unfortunately the international press and main TV networks, with some exceptions, have ignored the whole affair. These days this is actually the real news.
 See “US government securities seized from Japanese nationals, not clear whether real or fake,” AsiaNews, 8 June 2009, and “Seizure of US government bonds from two Japanese men in Italy raises questions,” AsiaNews, 8 June 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.