June 13, 2009

Japan Probes Report Two Seized With Undeclared Bonds

By Shunichi Ozasa and Makiko Kitamura

June 12 (Bloomberg) -- Japan is investigating reports two of its citizens were detained in Italy after allegedly attempting to take $134 billion worth of U.S. bonds over the border into Switzerland.

"Italian authorities are in the midst of the investigation, and haven't yet confirmed the details, including whether they are Japanese citizens or not," Takeshi Akamatsu, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said by telephone today in Tokyo. "Our consulate in Milan is continuing efforts to confirm the reports."

An official at the Consulate General of Japan in Milan, who only gave his name as Ikeda, said it still hasn't been confirmed that the individuals are Japanese. "We are in contact with the Italian Financial Police and the Italian Public Prosecutor's Office," Ikeda said by phone today.

The Asahi newspaper reported today Italian police found bond certificates concealed in the bottom of luggage the two individuals were carrying on a train that stopped in Chiasso, near the Swiss border, on June 3.

The undeclared bonds included 249 certificates worth $500 million each, the Asahi said, citing Italian authorities. The case was reported earlier in Italian newspapers Il Giornale and La Repubblica and by the Ansa news agency.

If the securities are found to be genuine, the individuals could be fined 40 percent of the total value for attempting to take them out of the country without declaring them, the Asahi said.

The Italian embassy in Tokyo was unable to confirm the Asahi report.

To contact the reporter on this story: Makiko Kitamura in Tokyo at mkitamura1@bloomberg.net.

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