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HerefordSire

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Where ever there is smoke, there is fire...

June 17 (Bloomberg) -- It’s a plot better suited for a John Le Carre novel.

Two Japanese men are detained in Italy after allegedly attempting to take $134 billion worth of U.S. bonds over the border into Switzerland. Details are maddeningly sketchy, so naturally the global rumor mill is kicking into high gear.

Are these would-be smugglers agents of Kim Jong Il stashing North Korea’s cash in a Swiss vault? Bagmen for Nigerian Internet scammers? Was the money meant for terrorists looking to buy nuclear warheads? Is Japan dumping its dollars secretly? Are the bonds real or counterfeit?

The implications of the securities being legitimate would be bigger than investors may realize. At a minimum, it would suggest that the U.S. risks losing control over its monetary supply on a massive scale.

The trillions of dollars of debt the U.S. will issue in the next couple of years needs buyers. Attracting them will require making sure that existing ones aren’t losing faith in the U.S.’s ability to control the dollar.

The dollar is, for better or worse, the core of our world economy and it’s best to keep it stable. News that’s more fitting for international spy novels than the financial pages won’t help that effort. It is incumbent upon the U.S. Treasury to get to the bottom of this tale and keep markets informed.

GDP Carriers

Think about it: These two guys were carrying the gross domestic product of New Zealand or enough for three Beijing Olympics. If economies were for sale, the men could buy Slovakia and Croatia and have plenty left over for Mongolia or Cambodia. Yes, they could have built vacation homes amidst Genghis Khan’s Gobi Desert or the famed Temples of Angkor. Bernard Madoff who?

These men carrying bonds concealed in the bottom of their luggage also would be the fourth-largest U.S. creditors. It makes you wonder if some of the time Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner spends keeping the Chinese and Japanese invested in dollars should be devoted to well-financed men crossing the Italian-Swiss border.

This tale has gotten little attention in markets, perhaps because of the absurdity of our times. The last year has been a decidedly disorienting one for capitalists who once knew up from down, red from black and risk from reward. It almost fits with the surreal nature of today that a couple of travelers have more U.S. debt than Brazil in a suitcase and, well, that’s life.

Clancy Bestseller

You can almost picture Tom Clancy sitting in his study thinking: “Damn! Why didn’t I think of this yarn and novelize it years ago?” He could have sprinkled in a Chinese angle, a pinch of Russian intrigue, a dose of Pyongyang and a bit of Taiwan-Strait tension into the mix. Presto, a sure bestseller.

Daniel Craig may be thinking this is a great story on which to base the next James Bond flick. Perhaps Don Johnson could buy the rights to this tale. In 2002, the “Miami Vice” star was stopped by German customs officers as he was traveling in a car carrying credit notes and other securities worth as much as $8 billion. Now he could claim it was all, uh, research.

When I first heard of the $134 billion story, I was tempted to glance at my calendar to make sure it didn’t read April 1.

Let’s assume for a moment that these U.S. bonds are real. That would make a mockery of Japanese Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano’s “absolutely unshakable” confidence in the credibility of the U.S. dollar. Yosano would have some explaining to do about Japan’s $686 billion of U.S. debt if more of these suitcase capers come to light.

‘Kennedy Bonds’

Counterfeit $100 bills are one thing; two guys with undeclared bonds including 249 certificates worth $500 million and 10 “Kennedy bonds” of $1 billion each is quite another.

The bust could be a boon for Italy. If the securities are found to be genuine, the smugglers could be fined 40 percent of the total value for attempting to take them out of the country. Not a bad payday for a government grappling with a widening budget deficit and rebuilding the town of L’Aquila, which was destroyed by an earthquake in April.

It would be terrible news for the White House. Other than the U.S., China or Japan, no other nation could theoretically move those amounts. In the absence of clear explanations coming from the Treasury, conspiracy theories are filling the void.

On his blog, the Market Ticker, Karl Denninger wonders if the Treasury “has been surreptitiously issuing bonds to, say, Japan, as a means of financing deficits that someone didn’t want reported over the last, oh, say 10 or 20 years.” Adds Denninger: “Let’s hope we get those answers, and this isn’t one of those ‘funny things’ that just disappears into the night.”

This is still a story with far more questions than answers. It’s odd, though, that it’s not garnering more media attention. Interest is likely to grow. The last thing Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke need right now is tens of billions more of U.S. bonds -- or even high-quality fake ones -- suddenly popping up around the globe.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid= ... 2_boqkurbI
 
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HerefordSire

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Another source....

Here’s yet another huge financial story that has been virtually blacked out by the US financial media. Although on the surface, this story appears to be a non-event, if we consider some of the released facts about this case, you will understand why I consider it to be a huge story. On June 8th, the Asia News reported the following story:

“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 dollars 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.”

Here are just a few fascinating facts about this case (at least they are being reported as “facts” at this current time):

(1) Though the smugglers have been identified in the press as “Japanese nationals” there has yet to be any confirmation if the smugglers were indeed Japanese or of some other ethnicity. How difficult is it to confirm the ethnicity of the smugglers and why is this information being kept secret?

(2) According to a brief Bloomberg article regarding this story, the seized bearer bonds allegedly were dated as of 1934. Since bearer bonds in denominations of $500 million did not exist in 1934, the bonds were deduced as fake, though the Italian police are still waiting for a declaration regarding the bonds’ authenticity from the SEC. There is something truly “off” about this declaration. How can the quality of the forged bearer bonds be so meticulous that they “are indistinguishable from the real ones”, yet the people involved in the alleged forgery so ill-informed as to not date the bearer bonds with a more recent year that would not immediately identify them as fraudulent? How hard would it have been to date the bearer bonds with a more recent year? An equivalent analogy would be if an expert art forger meticulously re-created a Picasso oil canvas and then erroneously signed the work with the wrong artist’s name. This story just does not add up.

(3) The Bloomberg story also reported that there is no known existence of the alleged 10 Kennedy bonds that were discovered in the smuggler’s suitcases, each with a denomination of $1 billion. Again, this discovery defies any logical explanation. Why would expert counterfeiters make 249 bearer bonds with denominations of $500 million apiece, each indistinguishable from the real thing, and then instead of just making 20 more such bonds, decide to make 10 bonds in denominations of $1 billion a piece in a bearer bond design that has never existed? Were the alleged counterfeiters just too lazy to confirm if Kennedy bearer bonds were ever a legitimately issued security? Again, this story makes no sense.

(4) On March 30, 2009, the US Treasury Department announced that USD $134.5 billion remained in its Troubled Asset Relief Program [TARP]. The stated amount of seized bearer bonds was $134.5 billion. Coincidence?

(5) The two well-dressed Japanese men opted to travel to Chiasso on a local train normally full of Italian manual laborers commuting to Switzerland. If they were really intent on successfully smuggling these bonds, counterfeit or real, why would they not take more care to select a travel route in which it was literally impossible for them not to stick out like two sore thumbs? Again, this part of the story defies all logic.

(6) The bearer bonds were discovered in a hidden briefcase compartment after a customs inspection. Again, if the bonds were indeed authentic and owned by a nation state, they could have been transported in a diplomatic pouch exempt from customs searches that would have guaranteed transport without detection.
Thus, all of the above irreconcilable and illogical points, other than the coincidence of the amount of the bearer bonds exactly matching the remaining TARP fund amount declared on March 30th, seem to indicate that not only were the seized bearer bonds counterfeit, but also that the smugglers were intent on being caught.
Before I continue, let’s review the purpose of bearer bonds.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of bearer bonds:

“A bearer bond is a debt security issued by a business entity, such as a corporation, or by a government. It differs from the more common types of investment securities in that it is unregistered – no records are kept of the owner, or the transactions involving ownership. Whoever physically holds the paper on which the bond is issued owns the instrument. This is useful for investors who wish to retain anonymity. The downside is that in the event of loss or theft, bearer bonds are extremely difficult to recover.”

If you recall the Michael Mann movie “Heat”, starring Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, during a daring daytime armored car robbery, the criminals specifically targeted millions of dollars of bearer bonds for theft precisely because of the above qualities of bearer bonds that make them very difficult to trace. Again, due to the properties of bearer bonds, it seems highly unlikely that $134.5 billion of bearer bonds would be transported, if they were real, by two men with no security, since theft almost guarantees that they would be lost forever.

Thus far, about the only piece of information that appears to be reliable as reported by various news sources regarding this huge mystery is the remarkable authenticity of the 249 seized bearer bonds in denominations of USD $500 million. If any of the other facts, as they are being reported, are remotely accurate, then the bearer bonds were likely counterfeit. Still, the interesting part of this story, at least to me, is that the smugglers seemed intent on being caught with the counterfeit bonds. This leads me back to my previous question. What possible reason would the smugglers have for wanting to be caught? One of the quickest ways to sabotage and usher in the death of a currency is to raise legitimate questions about its ability to withstand counterfeiting efforts. Prove that counterfeiting is not only possible but highly likely, and the world’s confidence in the sabotaged currency will undoubtedly plummet.

In fact, this very tactic was applied during World War II when the Nazis launched Operation Bernhard in an attempt to crash the British economy by producing, by 1945, 132 million expertly counterfeited British pounds, a figure that represented roughly 15% of all real British pounds in circulation at the time. The counterfeit pounds were produced by expert printers and engravers supervised by an SS officer named Bernhard Krueger. As well, historical evidence exists that the Allies considered launching a counter-counterfeit plan against the Nazis as well. During this time, it was also alleged that the Bank of Italy counterfeited their own money by issuing the same securities twice with identical registered numbers and codes in order. The purpose of this counterfeiting was to secretly expand monetary supply without public transparency or accountability. Perhaps then, this $134.5.billion bearer bond mystery was an attempt of a nation state to shake the world’s confidence in the position of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

There should be little debate that the world’s emerging economies in Russia, Brazil, China and certain Gulf Nations are at economic war today with the world’s Western nations and their economic allies. The currency war being fought today is sure to get much uglier in the foreseeable future, in both open tactics as well as secretly executed tactics. Currently, if the currency war were the world series of poker, the US and the UK would be holding a pair of 2s and relying on nothing but bluffs to keep the rest of the world at bay. Conversely, the Chinese and other emerging nations with large surpluses would be holding straight or royal flushes, and likely quietly maneuvering to go “all in” at some point.

Given that the discovery of $134.5 billion of bearer bonds in the suitcases of two Japanese nationals in Chiasso, Italy on the border of Switzerland qualifies as one of the largest smuggling operations in history, and given the various implications of such an act and the possible players involved, the silence regarding this huge story is simply stunning. It is not a huge story, per se, because of the counterfeiting operation, because accusations and revelations of massive money counterfeiting operations have occured in the past. It is a huge story, rather, due to all the inconsistencies of the story and the potential explanations that could explain these inconsistencies. The larger story at hand is, who are the players (nations) involved, and what was the intention of this likely counterfeiting operation? Maybe the future will reveal the answers to these questions. But maybe not.

http://seekingalpha.com/article/143462- ... sb_popular
 
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HerefordSire

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grannysoo":2xt5uswl said:
Hmmmmmm......... and makes you wonder why this is not on the evening news.

This is the main thing that caught my attention and made me want to post it. It is in the second source.

(4) On March 30, 2009, the US Treasury Department announced that USD $134.5 billion remained in its Troubled Asset Relief Program [TARP]. The stated amount of seized bearer bonds was $134.5 billion. Coincidence?
 

grannysoo

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HerefordSire":1vbg844y said:
Coincidence?

Of course it's a coincidence! :roll: I believe everything that I am told by our government, don't you???

"Sheeple" is the word that comes to mind...
 
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HerefordSire

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grannysoo":vst00x3b said:
U.S. Says Treasury Bonds Seized in Italy Are ‘Clearly Fakes’

(and they haven't even seen them yet)

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid= ... c1HD7mWY4A

Here it is. These two guys will be out of jail within a year I bet.

June 18 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. government bonds found in the false bottom of a suitcase carried by two Japanese travelers attempting to cross into Switzerland are fake, a Treasury spokesman said.

“They’re clearly fakes,” Stephen Meyerhardt, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of the Public Debt in Washington, said yesterday. “That’s beyond the fact that the face value is far beyond what’s out there.”

Italy’s financial police last week said they asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to authenticate the seized bonds, with a face value of $134 billion. Colonel Rodolfo Mecarelli of the Guardia di Finanza in Como, Italy, said the securities, seized in Chiasso, Italy, were probably forgeries.

Meyerhardt said Treasury records show an estimated $105.4 million in bearer bonds have yet to be surrendered. Most matured more than five years ago, he said. The Treasury stopped issuing bearer bonds in 1982, Meyerhardt said.

Had the notes been genuine, the pair would have been the U.S. government’s fourth-biggest creditor, ahead of the U.K. with $128 billion of U.S. debt and just behind Russia, which is owed $138 billion.

According to the Italian authorities, the seized notes included 249 securities with a face value of $500 million each and 10 additional bonds with a value of more than $1 billion, as well as securities purported to be “Kennedy” bonds. Meyerhardt said no such securities exist.

Nowadays, Treasury securities are issued electronically. The U.S. started converting all of its marketable debt from paper to electronic form in the 1980s.
 
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HerefordSire

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grannysoo":2z15xiyu said:
HerefordSire":2z15xiyu said:
Coincidence?

Of course it's a coincidence! :roll: I believe everything that I am told by our government, don't you???

"Sheeple" is the word that comes to mind...


Someone read that press release on March 30th and then decided to forge some bearer bounds in the same amount to make it look like they were TARP funds yet to be loaned. If they wanted the USD to tank in price, they probably caused it to go up in price. Either way, I smell a game here. Someone is making money in one of the markets and they used this news items to profit from a financial vehicle movement when the news hit.
 

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