Italian spouses 'faked break-up to cash in on benefits'

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15:49 CEST+02:00
A couple from Treviso, both in their 60s, are accused of getting legally separated just to cash in on state subsidies.

They are thought to have received thousands in welfare payments available to separated couples - despite the fact that they apparently continued to live together as man and wife.

The couple were followed by Italy's Finance Guard, a law enforcement agency, which used hidden cameras to track their daily habits. The investigation gathered enough information to prove that despite an official change in residence, the pair were still living together and "maintained a matrimonial link", according to local paper Liguria Oggi.

While there's nothing in Italian law forbidding exes from reconciling, the problem was that the apparently happy couple had received payments from the INPS, Italy's social security and welfare institute, which are reserved for separated couples suffering particular economic hardship. 

It now falls to a judge to decide if they have committed fraud.

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In 2012, lawyers estimated that 6,000 married couples get 'fake' separations in Italy each year in order to reap the financial rewards, and that they can get around €430 a month from doing so. If the estimate is correct, that would mean seven percent of separations in Italy are on paper only.

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