A Treasury spokesman says the $134 billion in bearer bonds seized by Italian authorities at the Swiss border are "clearly fakes."
"Based on the photos we've seen on the Web, they're not even close to looking like a Treasury security," Stephen Meyerhardt, a spokesman for Treasury's Bureau of Public Debt, said Thursday.
Italy's financial cops last Friday stopped two Japanese men on the border with U.S. bonds in a suitcase with a false bottom, according to local press reports. The bearer bonds — which function as cash, since anyone carrying them can cash them in — were valued at $134 billion.
The men claimed they had nothing to declare. The Japanese consulate in Milan now says it is not clear if the men are Japanese, and that they are investigating the case. Later, unconfirmed Japanese press reports suggest the men have been released.
"We sent a letter asking for further information to the Italian tax police as well as prosecutors," a Japanese official told reporters.
The U.S. issues its securities these days via an electronic format. It ceased printing paper bonds in the 1980s.
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