Yes, they had something to declare

Two Japanese citizens are arrested attempting to leave Italy with $134 billion worth of U.S. Treasury bonds.

By Andrew Leonard

Published June 12, 2009 11:01PM (EDT)

Sneaking in late on a Friday afternoon, we have the craziest story of the week. Two Japanese citizens have been arrested trying to cross into Switzerland from Italy carrying $134 billion worth of U.S. Treasury bonds.

That's right, $134 billion. In the false bottom of a suitcase.

A pair of Japanese citizens have been detained by Italian financial police in Chiasso on the Swiss-Italian border after being found with $134 billion of US bonds.

A report by an Italian daily said that the two Japanese citizens were carrying 249 U.S. Treasury bonds worth $500 million and 10 Kennedy bonds and other US government securities worth a billion dollars each.

Bloomberg reports that Italian financial police are asking the U.S. Treasury to authenticate the bonds, because, uh, please tell us these are forgeries.

The bonds, with a face value of more than $134 billion, are probably forgeries, Colonel Rodolfo Mecarelli of the Guardia di Finanza in Como, Italy, said today. If the notes are genuine, the pair would be 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.

OK, but, even if they are forgeries, where does a guy unload $134 billion worth of forged U.S. bonds? I mean, I know the Swiss are supposed to be discreet, but you'd think some questions would be asked.

And why do I feel like George Clooney and Brad Pitt must be involved?

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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