Italian authorities reported 302 cases of fraudulent claims made against EU funds in 2013, amounting to €68.5 million, according to the European Commission report released on Thursday.
The figure is remarkably higher than elsewhere in Europe, with second-place Romania reporting 109 false claims, amounting to €36.6 million. Bulgaria came third in the fraudster stakes, with 97 claims being made for a total of €9.4 million.
More greedy Europeans were however found elsewhere, with Poles trying to scam the EU out of €48.7 million in just 91 individual cases. Greece also reported a notably high sum, with 55 cases amounting to €28.2 million.
Within Italy most claims were for agricultural funds (213), a high figure the Commission said could be down to “over-zealous application of the fraudulent classifications”.
The findings will further cement Italy’s bad reputation as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. According to Transparency International's annual index, released in December, Italy was tied with Romania as the third most corrupt country in Europe. Only Bulgaria and Greece fared worse.
More broadly, Italians rank highest in Europe for tax evasion, costing the state an estimated €36.1 billion a year, according to European Commission figures released last year. The French are also not keen on paying their taxes, with evasion totalling €32.2 billion a year.