The “U.S. treasury bonds” with a face value of $5 billion seized by Income-Tax officials from a businessman in Tirupur district are most likely fake since the U.S. Treasury Department has largely dispensed with issuing paper T-bills and has certainly not issued any with a denomination as high as $1 billion. Indeed, in February 2012, after police in Italy seized fake U.S. bonds worth a whopping six trillion dollars, American officials told the media the U.S. does not sell a $1-billion treasury bond.

The Italian haul was similar to but much larger in scale than the recent seizure of five U.S. ‘international bills of exchange’, each with a face value of one billion dollars, from T.M. Ramalingam (46) at Dharapuram in Tirupur district of Tamil Nadu. While the I-T authorities say they are still trying to verify the authenticity of the documents, recent media reports suggest that use of fake U.S. bonds to make bogus investment pitches and defraud individuals and even banks around the world is not uncommon. The Reuters news agency, in fact, issued a picture of the fake U.S. treasury bond with a one-billion dollar value. Authorities in Italy then said such fake documents were often used as collateral for loans and other transactions.

According to The Los Angeles Times, U.S. Customs Enforcement has warned the public against such bogus bonds in circulation. Meanwhile, as taxmen continued their probe into the seizure of the purported U.S. treasury documents from his house, Mr. Ramalingam, who trades in agricultural products, claims he has complied with all legal requirements. When reporters of The Hindu met him at his residence on Thursday, he said, “I have complied with all procedures.” And, added that an inquiry was scheduled in Chennai for Friday before the Income Tax department. I-T officials did not rule out Mr. Ramalingam being duped into purchasing fake bonds as he had said he was planning to use the bonds to fund his ambitious plan to set up a petroleum product refinery.