Italy's fraud problem bleeds state coffers

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Thousands of fraudsters have been found this year. Photo: Rosie Scammell/The Local
11:48 CEST+02:00
Fraud and mismanagement in Italy's public sector has led to €1.5 billion of public money being wasted so far in 2013, according to a new report.

Around 8,000 cases of fraud have been reported to the police and a further 3,350 people were said to have squandered and mismanaged public funds, the Guardia di Finanza (Financial Guard) said on Friday.

Across Italy, 5,600 supposed agricultural workers have wrongly received unemployment, sickness or maternity benefits to the tune of €20 million.

In Ragusa, Sicily, 197 people - including 74 doctors and 9 politicians - were charged with aggravated fraud and related crimes.

In the Calabrian city of Catanzaro, also in southern Italy, a company received €5 million for a project to produce dietary supplements and foods. But when they went looking for proof of the project, investigators found only half-empty and abandoned buildings.

The south was not however the only part of the country where money was misused.

In northernmost Trentino-Alto Adige, a farmer received state funds to keep animals but instead spent the money on building a house fit for humans.

The authorities also found more organized fraud, including a group of 15 pilots in Verona who received €850,000 in social security, redundancy funds and other subsidies. At the same time they were doing black market deals with carriers in the Middle East.

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The fraud news comes just days after the Guardia di Finanza announced that Italians have evaded €17.5 billion in tax so far this year. The authorities have charged 1,771 people of nearly 5,000 cases uncovered in 2013.

The financial police have also been busy ridding Italian streets of fake handbag sellers. A total of 320,000 fake handbags and accessories have been seized this year, part of a broader investigation that has seen 64 million counterfeit goods taken off the market.

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