What do you get when you mix two Japanese nationals with some fake US government bonds, a slow train to Switzerland and members of the Italian financial guard?
–Conspiracy surrounds $134bn ‘bond’ find
Italian prosecutors were trying to establish yesterday whether US bonds with a face value of $134 billion seized from two alleged smugglers were real or counterfeit.
The bonds were found when the two men — said to be Japanese but as yet not identified — were arrested while attempting to cross into Switzerland from Italy by train at the frontier town of Chiasso this month. Prosecutors in Como said that the two men had hidden the bonds in the false bottom of a suitcase.
Police said that Chiasso was a notorious crossing point for currency and bond smugglers but the sums involved this time were “colossal”. The amount of $134 billion would place the two travelers as the fourth most important investors in US debt, well ahead of Britain ($128.2 billion) and just behind Russia ($138.4 billion). The bonds were described as being 249 US Federal Reserve bonds each worth $500 million, plus ten Kennedy bonds with face values of $1 billion, in addition to various other types.
It clearly is a remarkable tale, but after the “bonds” were seized by the Italian finance police, the men, after some questioning, were let go, sparking a frenzy of conspiracy theories on the internet.
Now questions abound: are the bonds real or counterfeit? And why were the Japanese men not arrested?
Were they, perhaps, actually Japanese government officials on a secret mission to dump US dollar-denominated assets?
And if so, is that just more evidence that a growing number of investors are losing faith in the US economy and the US government’s ability to repay is ballooning debt?
Who else is involved, ask the bloggers. Is this the work of the Italian mafia? Take a trip round the web, and there is no shortage of explanations.