We've heard a lot of big numbers over the past year. A $700 billion bank rescue. A trillion-dollar deficit. A $50 billion Ponzi scheme. A quadrillion-dollar Zimbabwean personal check.

But this story might top them all, if only for sheer originality. Details are extremely vague, but Bloomberg reports two Japanese men were detained in Italy after trying to smuggle $134 billion of U.S. Treasury bonds into Switzerland.

You read that right: Two men. $134 billion. They had it all stuffed in a suitcase -- a suitcase worth more than Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), or Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO). The denominations were as high as $1 billion each, so smuggling this much dough didn't require as much storage as you'd think. Pocket change, really.

Now, one of two scenarios seems likely here: Either this is a counterfeit operation of biblical proportions, or it's a disturbingly ominous stealth transfer by a single foreign nation. Why? Only a few countries actually own over $134 billion of Treasury securities. Have a look:


Total Amount of Treasuries Owned


$764 billion


$686 billion

United Kingdom

$153 billion


$137 billion

Source: U.S. Treasury, April 2009.

Other top holders include Caribbean banking centers ($205 billion) and oil exporting nations ($190 billion). So if we assume these Treasuries came from a single, foreign source, there are literally only a handful of potential owners. Moreover, that single source had to be moving a huge portion, if not all, of its bonds at once. Sketchy? Mmm-hmm.

Assuming the Treasuries are real (which, honestly, I'd say is rather improbable), the question then becomes why a country was in the middle of illicitly moving such an enormous amount of capital. Under-the-table bailouts? A stealth run on the dollar? Oh! Buying a congressional seat from Rod Blagojevich? Gotta pay to play, baby.

I'll go out on a limb: Until this story gets solved, the conspiracy theorists will be tripping over themselves with ideas. Have your own theory? Let's hear it, Fools. Fire away in the comment section below.

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