It’s very short on specifics, but it’s the first published report affirmatively linking those fake bonds to North Korea:
An Italian newspaper reports a recent mysterious case involving US$134.5 billion worth of counterfeit bonds has a North Korea connection. Earlier this month two Japanese nationals were caught in Italy allegedly trying to smuggle the bonds into Switzerland.
Il Messaggero says the fake bonds may have been manufactured in North Korea since the two men are North Korean agents and are believed to have been seeking to purchase weapons. [Chosun Ilbo]
When the Justice Department first indicted the former IRA terrorist, Stalinist splinter cell leader, and alleged supernote co-conspirator Sean Garland, it claimed that one of the purposes of the plot was to destroy the U.S. economy. North Korea appears not to have printed anywhere near enough supernotes to do that, but printing good facsimiles of bearer bonds worth billions would be another matter entirely. Fortunately, the bonds appear to have been obvious fakes, despite the good quality of the printing:
“They are all fraudulent, it’s obvious. We don’t even have paper securities outstanding for that value,” said Mckayla Braden, senior adviser for public affairs at the Bureau of Public Debt at the US Treasury department. “This type of scam has been going on for years.”
The Treasury has not issued physical Treasury bonds since the 1980s ““ they are handled electronically ““ though they still issue savings bonds in paper format.
In Washington a US Secret Service official said the agency, which is working with the Italian authorities, believed the bonds were fake. [Financial Times]
I will note that the Financial Times had reported that police speculation had originally focused on the Italian mafia, based on a previous alleged scam done jointly with crooked bankers in Venzuela. That report was printed ten days ago, however, so it’s possible that the investigation has developed further since then.
Either way, it seems odd that Italian police later released the two Japanese men, despite having caught them with the bonds in false-bottom suitcases. Although both men were holding Japanese passports, the Japanese government professes not to have been told who these guys were.