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More than 40 arrested in Italy for immigration visa fraud

More than 40 people have been arrested in Italy for fraud in obtaining immigration visas, police and prosecutors said on Wednesday (10), weeks after Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni complained that mafia groups were exploiting the system for profit.

Forty-four people were arrested, including 13 in prison, 24 under house arrest and seven in custody. They were charged with various crimes, including criminal association with the aim of facilitating illegal immigration, money laundering and false invoicing.

Another 10 suspects were banned from engaging in commercial activities for 12 months.

According to a statement from prosecutors in the southern city of Salerno, near Naples, the suspects filed fraudulent visa applications in the names of immigrants, who need sponsorship from employers to begin the process.

They filed “around 2,500” applications from 2020 “based on non-existent or falsified data,” prosecutors said, adding that the migrants paid up to 7,000 euros each to push the process through various bureaucratic hurdles.

Assets worth about 6 million euros were seized as proceeds of the alleged crimes, prosecutors said, indicating that some of the suspects accused of money laundering were linked to the Camorra, the mafia in Naples and the surrounding area.

Speaking to reporters, Salerno’s chief prosecutor Giuseppe Borrelli said investigations were accelerated after Meloni in June said he had reported his concerns about possible fraud to the national anti-mafia prosecutor.

As part of its tough stance on immigration, Meloni’s government has passed a series of measures to curb the arrival of illegal immigrants, but has also expanded channels for legal immigration in response to a growing labor shortage.

Last year, the government increased quotas for work visas for non-EU citizens to a total of 452,000 for the 2023-2025 period, an increase of almost 150% compared to the previous three years. In 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, Italy issued just 30,850 visas.

Last month, Meloni said a disproportionate number of visa applications had come from Campania – the economically depressed region that includes Naples and its Camorra mafia – which raised alarm bells.

Source: CNN Brasil

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