Sunday, June 21, 2009

US Treasury Bond Smugglers Employees of Japan's Finance Ministry?

That's what I just heard on the radio program, so I searched the Internet. I found this from Turner Radio Network, the same network who reported the "leaked" results of the bank stress test back in May. (By no means I am endorsing the network or the validity of the news by posting the link below.)

Employees of Japan Finance Ministry arrested in Italy trying to smuggle $134 Billion in U.S. Treasuries in suitcases (6/20/09 Turner Radio Network)

"Two Japanese men arrested by Italian Police while trying to smuggle $134 Billion in U.S. Treasury Bonds concealed in suitcases, out of Italy into Switzerland, are employees of the Finance Ministry of Japan.

"Despite assurances from Japanese Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano about Japan's "absolutely unshakable” confidence in the credibility of the U.S. dollar, it is now confirmed based upon the serial numbers of the Bonds, that the $134 Billion is part of the $686 billion of U.S. debt officially held by Japan.

"According to Italian Law Enforcement, authorities originally thought the men were part of the "Yakuza", a Japanese organized crime syndicate similar to the Italian Mafia, which lead officials to believe the Bonds were forgeries But after the men who were arrested were forced to remain in jail for more than a few days, they discarded their cover story and admitted to being employees of the Finance Ministry of Japan."

I searched the news in Japanese mainstream media. None about this particular news, and very little about the whole strange episode. But bloggers are a different story, and speculations are rampant in the Japanese blogsphere - "yakuza", Korean smugglers (both South and North), or ministry officials doing the bidding of some political faction within the Japan's ruling party.

The first thing the Japanese bloggers who are following this event ask is: Why is it taking so long to disclose whether the US Treasury bonds are real or fake, or who the two Japanese are? It's been over 2 weeks since the arrest. Many speculate that the very fact that so little has been disclosed means these bonds are genuine, and these two Japanese are indeed government officials.

One Japanese blogger asks an interesting question: Who leaked? He says that the Italian authority does not routinely conduct a search on carry-on luggage of a departing passenger at the border crossing, UNLESS they were told to search by someone higher up.

Hardly any report either in the US press on this strange case. I thought myself that this was just a routine "yakuza" operation, but I'm not so sure now.


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