MILAN, June 18 Italy has asked U.S. authorities
to check the authenticity of what appear to be U.S. government
bonds worth $134 billion seized near the Swiss border, a senior
Italian tax police officer said on Thursday.
Early in June, Italy's Guardia di Finanza, or tax police,
said they had seized the U.S. bonds from two Japanese nationals
at the Chiasso rail station in the north of Italy close to the
frontier with Switzerland.
"We have already established contact with American
colleagues who should give an expert opinion on the bonds to
establish their authenticity or falseness," said Rodolfo
Mecarelli, head of the financial police in the Como province,
which includes Chiasso.
Mecarelli said the tax police and the magistrate
investigating the case have strong doubts about the
authenticity of both types of bonds found in the baggage of the
The bonds comprised 249 "Federal Reserve" bonds of $500
million nominal value each and 10 "Bond Kennedy" with a $1
billion nominal value, the tax police said on June 4 in a
statement on the seizure of the bonds.
A reply from the relevant U.S. authorities based at the
U.S. embassy in Rome is expected in the next few days or next
Italian investigators are also checking that the two
travellers' Japanese documents are genuine.
In the last two years, $800 million of U.S. bonds have been
seized in the Como area.
If the bonds are genuine, the holders could face a fine of
40 percent of their value, or $38 billion, the tax police said
in their statement earlier this month.
Despite the potentially huge scale of the seizure, the
amount remains small compared to the $2 trillion worth of new
debt the U.S. Treasury is expected to issue in the fiscal year
to Sept 20.
(Reporting by Sara Rossi; writing by Nigel Tutt; Editing by