"Siracusao Meravigliao" – this is the name of the investigation led by the Tommaso Pagano (public prosecutor) in Augusta, a small village in the vicinities of the Sicilian town of Syracuse, aimed at unmasking the a scam led by a criminal organisation in southern Sicily.
The organisation has allegedly helped 500 Brazilians to gain bogus Italian citizenship by descent, irrespective of the fact that none of the applicants actually met the legal requirements demanded by Italian law. This scam was perpetrated with the collusion of at least three public sector employees of the area who provided unlawful support to cut the bureaucracy required to grant the Italian citizenship to the Brazilian applicants in exchange for money.
Suspicions were raised by the unusually fast pace the whole procedure was dealt with and by the suspicious influx of Brazilian citizens in Italy. Also, each application was registered under one single name.
The investigation started in April 2016, unveiling that the scheme of the Sicily-based service provider had managed to attract the attention of many Brazilian citizens wishing to achieve Italian citizenship in the shortest time possible. An Italian passport has allowed them to enter the European Union and settle down in several different European countries.
Clients were attracted by means of a website. Packages including flights to Italy (allowing clients to enter the country as tourists, thus not requiring a visa), transfers to Syracuse and assistance to gain Italian citizenship in a shortest possible time were offered. Clients were provided with accommodation that would support proof of residence; this package was offered for €3500 per person.
Normally an application for citizenship involves a meticulous and long investigation on the part of the competent municipality office at which the foreign citizen applies. In addition, the country of origin of the applicant is required to perform some additional investigation to ascertain the validity of the application, for example, by establishing the direct line of descent from an Italian relative.
The scheme proved particularly profitable to the individuals behind the scam, as it allowed them to raise significant profits which were reinvested in the purchase of land in Brazil. However they now stand accused of corruption, money-laundering and aiding the illegal permanence of foreign citizens in Italy. The three public sector employees have been accused of acting outside of their official duties in exchange of money.
The victims of this scam find themselves in an extremely difficult situation which, in some cases, may result in some people being summarily deported; in others an individual may be considered to have colluded with the scammers making them party to the deception. Giambrone is assisting a number of them by investigating their applications to determine their legal position. Giambrone has a significant record of success in helping foreign citizens gaining Italian citizenship by descent.
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