Italy's biggest refugee centre 'stole state funds'

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A potentially fraudulent system of magnetic cards at Italy's largest refugee centre has been uncovered by investigators. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
12:24 CEST+02:00
Prosecutors investigating Italy's largest refugee centre, Cara di Mineo, have uncovered evidence of a fraud that allowed the complex to keep receiving money for refugees after they had left.

The centre has been under investigation since June for a number of irregularities, but prosecutors have found evidence of an allegedly fraudulent magnetic card system.

Through the system, the centre was able to to claim €35 a day for refugees who had left, Giornaletissimo reported.

The centre, located near Catania in Sicily, holds around 4,000 refugees. On arrival, each refugee is issued with a magnetic card that allows them access to on-site services such as the medical clinic, the market and the canteen while they wait for their asylum claims to be processed.

When a refugee does not use their card for three consecutive days, the card automatically sends an alert to a computer system which records that they are no longer at the centre. After five days, the card is automatically disabled.

However, after three days of absence the day rate of €35 should no longer be paid to the centre.

While this information was automatically recorded into the system at Mineo – it was allegedly never passed on to the regional authorities.

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The result is that over the last four years, hundreds of thousands of euros could have been paid to the centre for refugees who had left the vast holding complex long before.

The investigation, led by prosecutor Giuseppe Verzera, is also investigating irregularities with a €100 million contract tender put out for the management of the centre as well as claims of nepotism in its hiring practices.  

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