Italian officials said Friday that more than $6 trillion worth of fake US Treasury bonds were confiscated by police in Switzerland, leading to the arrest of eight people accused of international fraud and other financial crimes.
According to Bloomberg, the discovery of the fake bonds — made to look as if they were printed by the U.S. Federal Reserve in 1934 — was carried out by Italian and Swiss authorities after a year-long investigation.
The operation was “the biggest for this type of investigation,” Giovanni Colangelo, the head of the prosecutor’s office in the city of Potenza in southern Italy, told reporters.
“The counterfeiting of bonds, the transfer of the deposit boxes from Hong Kong to Switzerland, the global travel (of the suspects) had an enormous cost and we think that the interests are at a high level,” Colangelo said.
While authorities still remain uncertain as to what exactly the gang was planning on doing with the fake securities, which were worth almost half the total of the US national debt, they say the fraud posed “severe threats” to global financial security.
Friday’s was by no means the first seizure of fake US bonds by Italian authorities but by far the one with the highest face value.
In September 2009, Italian police seized $116bn in phoney bonds and arrested two Filipino nationals carrying them at Milan’s airport.
In June of the same year police arrested two Japanese nationals on the Italian-Swiss border carrying US Treasury bonds with a face value of $134bn.