Wednesday, 8 July 2009

italy: seized bonds could be real




Everything suggests that the American bonds seized at Chiasso are real

Official U.S. sources continue to say they are fakes, but there is no news that American experts have inspected them in person. Arrested for another matter, the director of a U.S. radio who says the bonds are real and Japan was trying to sell in Switzerland, not trusting the ability of the United States to honour its debt.

Milan (AsiaNews) – Four weeks have passed since American bonds were confiscated from two Japanese men who were travelling on a direct train to Chiasso, Switzerland, and while there has been clarification of some - very few -points, Italian authorities have remained silent on the rest of the episode.

In addition, a strange coincidence in the timing of the arrest of a director of an internet radio who had made revelations regarding the incident ,increases the already strong oddities surrounding the case. This added to the revaluation of the fact that among the evidence seized there were "Kennedy Bonds", all points toward the authenticity of the items seized by the Guardia di Finanza (GdF) in early June.

The major English-speaking newspapers ignored the story for a couple of weeks. They only started to report on it after the Bloomberg agency carried a story on 18 / 6, in which a spokesman for the Treasury, Meyerhardt, declared that the bonds, based on photos available on the Internet, were "clearly false." The same day, the Financial Times (FT) published an article whose title laid the blame for the (alleged) infringement at the feet of the Italian Mafia, despite the fact that the article failed to make even one possible connection with the episode in Chiasso. Nevertheless, the version of events as reported in FT was taken up by others as being "appropriate" (given that it is a very common cliché about Italy and it is a sequester that took place in Italy) and in the end "colourful." It’s a pity that it goes against all logic: that the Mafia tried to pass unnoticed in its attempt to dump fake bonds amounting to 134.5 billion dollars and moreover were to "stung" a mere step from their gaol, is not very credible.

Most recently last week, 25 / 6, the New York Times reported on the story in particular, the allegations of CIA spokesman, Darrin Blackford: the U.S. Secret Service carried out inspections, as required by the Italian judiciary, and found that they were fictitious financial instruments, never issued by the “U.S. government”. It is not clear, however, how the checks mentioned by Blackford were carried out and whether they were also are carried out via internet. In fact according to official Italian sources the Commission of American experts, expected in Italy, have yet to arrive. Furthermore, the bonds were accompanied by a recent and original bank record. It is therefore unclear how the U.S. authorities can declare fake documentation that does not originate from the Fed or the U.S. Department of Treasury.

On the contrary, claims in support of the bond’s authenticity were made 20 / 6 on the Turner Radio Network (TRN), an independent radio station broadcast via Internet. On that date in a massive exposure, TRN stated that the two Japanese men arrested by the Guardia di Finanza (GdF) and then released in Ponte Chiasso were employees of the Japanese Ministry for Treasury. AsiaNews had also received similar reports: one of the two Japanese arrested in Chiasso and then released is Tuneo Yamauchi, is the brother of Toshiro Muto, until recently vice governor of the Bank of Japan. On its website, the creator and presenter of the Radio, Hal Turner, had also claimed that his sources had revealed that the Italian authorities believe the evidence to be authentic and that the two Japanese officials are from the Japanese Ministry for Finance. They were supposed to bring the bonds to Switzerland because the Japanese government had apparently lost confidence in U.S. ability to repay its debt. Japanese financial authorities therefore were trying to sell a part of the securities in their possession through parallel channels ahead of an imminent financial disaster, thanks to the anonymity which, Turner said, is guaranteed by the laws of Switzerland.

AsiaNews does not know to what extent Turner’s revelations can be held as credible, given that in this case too, it is difficult to believe that $ 134.5 billion would pass unnoticed anywhere in the world. It seems far more logical to assume that the bonds, if authentic, were directed to the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, BIS, the central bank of central banks ahead of the issuance of securities in a new supranational currency. Turner had in any event added that as evidence to support his revelations he would have provided the serial numbers of the seized bonds. Before he could do so, however, was imprisoned. Hal Turner is the journalist who long ago first broke the news of a secret plan to replace the dollar, after a severe financial crisis, with a common North American currency, the Amero. In a dramatic phone call from inside the prison in which he is detained pending trial, relayed via internet, Hal Turner claims that his arrest is political and it is in relation to the securities seized in Chiasso, because the authorities are terrified by his revelations of the bonds’ authenticity. Of course, the allegations made against him have to nothing to do with the story and thus an already intricate story becomes ever more complex. Turner maintains that he did not personally formulate the disclosure for which he has been imprisoned. Although it was clearly his responsibility to remain vigilant, it is also true that blogs from around the world and the U.S. themselves are full of threats and provocations. The coincidental timing, the unusual diligence and the details of his arrest arouse suspicions about the true motives of the American federal police. Indeed, this very arrest suggests that the evidence seized from GdF are truly authentic.

One more element in favour of the bond’s authenticity is found in the securities, which in the June 4 statement, the GdF termed "Kennedy Bonds” with photos provided. These photos reveal that the securities under discussion are not bonds but Treasury Notes, because they are securities that can be immediately exchanged for their worth in goods or services and because they are devoid of interest coupons. One side carries a reproduction of the image of the American president, the reverse side that of a spaceship. From confidential, usually well-informed sources, AsiaNews has learned that this type of paper money was issued less than ten years ago (in 1998), although it is difficult to know whether those seized in Chiasso are authentic. But the fact that the release of this particular State Treasury was not completely in the public domain tends to exclude the possibility of counterfeiting. It highly unreasonable to suppose that a forger would reproduce a State Treasury not commonly in circulation and of which there is no public knowledge. For this reason, it can be concluded that the 124.5 billion dollars divided in 249 bonds of 500 million each are authentic. These titles, although referred to as "Federal Reserve Notes" are actually bonds, because they accrue interest and are redeemable at maturity. But one question remains unsolved regarding them. It is somewhat hard to understand why the securities, which were from the outset indistinguishable from the original to the GdF, all have their coupons. Any ordinary investor, even a state, would have cashed in the interest coupon every year, so as not to lose purchasing power.

Securities seized in Chiasso still between a wall of silence and a flow of disinformation

Neither Italian nor US authorities have officially said whether the seized US Treasury bills worth US$ 134.5 billion are real or fake. A US Treasury spokesperson said they were fakes, but acknowledged that he only saw them in a photo on the internet. For Italy’s financial police, if they are forgeries, they are practically indistinguishable from the real stuff. Both the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan have an interest in denying their authenticity.

Milan (AsiaNews) – Italy’s financial police (Guardia di Finanza) seized US$ 134.5 billion last 3 June. In the following days the news hit the front pages of Italian newspapers and became a major story in the country’s news broadcasts.

AsiaNews is a missionary news agency, not an economic agency and began reporting the story a few days later (8 June) noting how foreign media were ignoring news of such importance which could have major social and economic implications for Asia (and the rest of the world) and this irrespective of whether the bills were real or not.

Despite the many uncertain explanations, one thing is certain, namely that the major print and electronic media and the authorities have said almost nothing about it.

So far the only official statement made by any government authority is that by the Italian financial police, on 4 June, right after the money was seized. The only new piece to this big puzzle is information from Japanese agencies which cite Japanese consular sources.

According to them, the two Asian men stopped at Ponte Chiasso (Italy) on their way to Chiasso (Switzerland) were indeed Japanese nationals, one from Kanagawa Prefecture (central Japan) and the other from Fukuoka Prefecture (western Japan).

The only other certainty is that both men were released after their identity was established.

If police had enough elements to conclude that the securities were fakes (and this is true even for lower denominations or net worth), it had to arrest the two men. Failure to do so would have meant charges for the police officers involved.

If this was not the case, then the two men were released because police authorities were convinced that the securities were real. In fact under Italian law, the authorities could not arrest the two Japanese nationals but could only impose a fine worth 40 per cent of the value of anything above 10,000 €.

If this did not happen, there is only one other possible explanation, namely that an order from higher up the chain of command in the government came on national interest grounds.

Neither the Guardia di Finanze nor any other Italian government agency has released an official comment or statement on the matter one way or the other. It is not even known if a written fine was issued (had it been it would indicate that the securities were real for the police).

All that AsiaNews can conclude is as follow:

The first report by an international news agency is dated 12 June and is by Bloomberg. It includes something odd. Some of the seized securities were issued in 1934; a detail not found in the statement issued by Italy’s financial police.

One can argue from the facts that this detail could have indicated in which direction someone was trying to move the affair, i.e. towards the idea that the bills were fakes.

Conversely, we do know that the US treasury did issue one billion dollar Kennedy Bonds less than ten years ago, like those mentioned in the police’s official statement of 4 June, but whether the latter are real or not is something that has not yet been officially determined.

So far little has been said about who the two Japanese men really are. Given what the securities are worth this is understandable, albeit unusual.

Two weeks after the story initially broke Bloomberg quoted a US Treasury official, Stephen Meyerhardt, who could claimed that the securities were “clearly fakes”. Yet in another interview Meyerhardt said that he had not seen the securities in person but had relied on a photo on the internet to reach his opinion.

Also, two weeks into the affair, after Italian and US authorities were informed about the seizure, no one from the US Treasury has yet to come to Italy to check out their authenticity; indeed such a simple operation if we are to believe Mr Meyerhardt since he could reach that conclusion just by looking at an internet photo and this against the backdrop of the Italian financial police which claims that if the securities were indeed counterfeit they were so well done that they were indistinguishable from real ones.

What this means is that either the Italian policemen are totally incompetent (which is not very likely) or that Meyerhardt’s statement should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Since no official statement has been forthcoming from the authorities, all we have to rely on is an interview by the commander of the Guardia di Finanza detachment in Como to a news agency in which he expressed his own opinion, not that of his force, which is thus not formally bound by what he said. Even then, as far as the authenticity of the securities is concerned all Colonel Mecarelli would say is that Italy’s financial police “is waiting for our US colleagues to determine whether the bonds are real or forgeries.”

Whatever the case may be, the fact that two weeks into the affair US experts in counterfeit securities have not yet arrived in Italy raises more than one question; after all we are talking about US$ 135.4 billion.

Often considered a good authority in journalism, London’s Financial Times seems to have jumped to the wrong conclusion when in a recent article it claimed that the seized faked securities were the “the latest handiwork of the Italian Mafia”, thus accepting uncritically that the US Treasury bills were fakes. In fact it did not show how they were linked to the mafia.

Confidential sources, whose reliability AsiaNews could not confirm, claim that one of the two Japanese stopped and then released in Ponte Chiasso was Tuneo Yamauchi, brother-in-la of Toshiro Muto, who was until recently Deputy Governor of the Bank of Japan, which of course does not automatically mean that the securities are real.

However, other sources are saying that for Italian authorities they are real and that Rome is unwilling to play along with the US Federal Reserve, which described them as fakes without taking a peak at them, except via the internet.

What seems clear is that the Federal Reserve has a vested interest in helping the Bank of Japan get the Securities back to avoid paying the Italian fine. The Fed in fact is having a hard time trying to sell its bills on various markets and the Japanese are its main buyers.

At the same time the Berlusconi administration in Italy, despite its popularity and electoral successes, could come under pressure at home if the securities are actually real and it came out that it was unwilling to enforce its own laws on Italian territory.

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