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Police arrest 8, seize $6 tln in fake U.S. bonds

'Possibly intended for Nigerian plutonium,' investigators say

17 February, 15:32
Police arrest 8, seize $6 tln in fake U.S. bonds (ANSA) - Rome, February 17 - Italian police on Friday seized counterfeit United States bonds to the tune of $6 trillion stored in fake Federal Reserve security boxes in Switzerland, arresting eight people in Italy on charges of international financial fraud with possible intent to purchase plutonium. The arrests took place in the southern region of Basilicata, where the probe was based, as well as Lazio, Lombardy and Piedmont.

Police said they had broken up "an organisation specialising in international financial transactions guaranteed by counterfeit US bonds".

Six trillion dollars is more than twice the size of Italy's national debt, the second-largest in the eurozone after Greece.

Mysteriously, the bonds were uncovered alongside copies of the Treaty of Versailles rolled inside lead cylinders. Investigators said the gang may have been planning to offer the bogus bonds to investors in emerging economies or to mainstream brokers.

The money may at one time have been intended to buy plutonium from Nigeria, the police said based on wiretaps of the suspects discussing the deal that never materialized.

The probe stems from an investigation into a loan-sharking mafia group near Potenza, the capital of Basilicata.

The gang had "international contacts", police said, thanking Swiss authorities for their "full cooperation".

The first breakthrough in the case came in September 2010 in Rome, where Carabinieri seized bogus US bonds with a face value of $500 million in the home of a person under investigation.

The "total falseness" of the bonds, bearing an issuance date of 1934, was certified by Federal Reserve and American embassy experts in Rome.

The three security boxes were moved from Hong Kong to a Swiss trust fund in Zurich in January 2007, police said.

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