Case of $134-billion T-bond bust fuels conspiracy theories


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For your entertainment, Bloomberg News columnist William Pesek lets his imagination run wild about the strange case of two Japanese men who were allegedly trying to smuggle $134 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds into Switzerland last week:

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 case has received little play in mainstream media, which Pesek presumes is because it’s so surreal. And, probably, because the assumption is that the bonds are phony. But the Italian authorities seem to have released few details so far.

I think the original story was carried by a service called AsiaNews, which I’ve never heard of. Go here for the original and here for the service’s follow-up. The Seeking Alpha website has a story here. Glenn Beck on Fox News also has picked up on this.

As you’re reading, keep in mind that actual facts on the story are in short supply.

Still, even assuming this is just a counterfeiting case, the total involved (if it’s accurate) is mind-boggling. This is manna from heaven for conspiracy theorists.

Note, though, that Bloomberg goes a little over the top with the headline on Pesek’s column, suggesting that ‘Suitcase With $134 Billion Puts Dollar on Edge.’ The dollar may have plenty of things weighing on it lately, but this probably isn’t one of them.

-- Tom Petruno