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Italian police seize $6tn of fake US Treasury bonds

Swiss authorities find bonds in safe deposit boxes in Zurich in ‘largest ever’ seizure of fake securities

Italian police have seized tn of fake US Treasury bonds, an amount equal to more than a third of the US’s public debt.

The bonds were found by Swiss authorities in safe deposit boxes in Zurich. Arrest warrants have been issued for eight people as a result of the operation, dubbed “Operation Vulcanica”.

The alleged fraudsters are accused of counterfeiting bonds and credit card forgery.

The securities, dated 1934, were held in three large trunks stored at a Zurich trust company. It is believed to be the largest ever seizure of fake Treasury bonds. US officials in Italy confirmed that the bonds were counterfeit but declined to comment further.

According to the Italian authorities the bonds had been transported from Hong Kong to Zurich in 2007. The police said the plan was to sell the bonds to a developing country, either directly or through an intermediary.

The investigators, based in Potenza southern Italy, said the fraud posed “severe threats” to international financial security.

Italian and Swiss prosecutors said they had been working on the case for a year.

The US has been issuing Treasury bonds electronically since the 1980s – although they still issue savings bonds in paper format.

Fake Treasury bonds are a popular mafia scam. They can be used as security to open lines of credit before the fraudsters take the money and disappear.

Last year Italian police found bn worth of fake bonds during a routine search of the vehicles at a rest stop.

In 2009 two men carrying Japanese passports were arrested while trying to leave Italy for Switzerland carrying 4bn in fake bonds. In the same year to Phillippine nationals were arrested at Malpensa airport, Milan, as they attempting to leave the country carrying 0bn of Treasury bonds.

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