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Sunday, 21 June 2009

Financial Crime of the Week: The Cosa Nostra Bond Dealers

Banks keep a record of all flaky deals that get proposed to them, particularly “walk-up” deals involving mysteriously acquired assets, and they have a never ending supply of customers offering deals like this one. It appears that the dodgy securities would have been used as security for loans.

Italy’s financial police last week said they asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to authenticate seized U.S. government bonds, with a face value of $134 billion, found in the false bottom of a suitcase carried by two Japanese travellers crossing into Switzerland.

A spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of the Public Debt in Washington, said that $134 billion was higher than the amount of unredeemed bearer bonds in circulation. Treasury records show an estimated $105.4 million in bearer bonds have yet to be surrendered. Most matured more than five years ago, he said. The Treasury stopped issuing bearer bonds in 1982.

The seized notes included 249 securities with a face value of $500 million each and 10 additional bonds with a value of more than $1 billion, as well as securities purported to be “Kennedy” bonds. No such securities exist. Had the notes been genuine, the pair would have been the U.S. government’s fourth-biggest creditor, ahead of the U.K. with $128 billion of U.S. debt and just behind Russia, which is owed $138 billion.

Nice try guys, but I doubt it would have worked even if you had got to the bank. Try being a little more realistic with the amount, pick a bond that actually exists and is not yet due for redemption. It’s a bit of a giveaway if you ask for a currency against a security that is overdue for redemption. Why not just redeem the security if it is real?

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