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Antarctica passports for sale – A scam laundered through Malta.



From Italy to Antarctica to Malta: loot from elaborate Italian passport scam laundered through Malta

Malta has seen its fair share of passport and citizenship scams over the years, but perhaps nothing as outlandish as being a money laundering base for con artists who sold citizenships for a fictitious ‘Antarctic Theocratic Sovereign State of St George’.

Italian scam artists came up with a novel way of selling passports to a supposedly newfound state in the Antarctic, where they would be exempt from the Italian taxman, be subject to a mere five per rate of taxation and enjoy an exemption from Covid vaccination rules.

But before the Italian police pulled the plug on the operation and made a dozen arrests earlier this week, more than 700 people had already fallen for the scam and believed they had been made citizens of a fledgling Antarctic state.

The Malta money laundering connection

According to a statement issued on Thursday by Italy’s Polizia di Stato (State Police), Malta figured not insignificantly in the operation since it was where the illicit gains were to have been laundered, and where a representative of the fledgling state was to have been based.

The Polizia di Stato explained how, “The fraudulent sums amount to around €400,000, which were laundered through a foreign account located in Maltese territory, where a representative of the state would also be based.”

In all, the Italian police have placed 12 people under house arrest for their involvement in the scam. They are being charged with money laundering, conspiracy, fraud and the manufacture and possession of false documents. Another 30 people are also under investigation, the Italian police reported.

The Italians’ investigation began in April 2021 following a search of the supposed diplomatic headquarters of the Antarctic ‘state’ in Catanzaro, when agents from Italy’s Divisione Investigazioni Generali e Operazioni Speciali (General Investigations and Special Operations Division, DIGOS) were following a tip-off that drug dealing was taking place on the premises.

€200 to €1,000 for Antarctic citizenship

More than 700 Italians and residents of Italy fell for the ploy and believed themselves to be citizens of the non-existent Antarctic state. They had each paid between €200 and €1,000 euros for the unique privilege.

Upon becoming ‘citizens’, they were to have received attractive incentives, according to Italian police, such as generous funding for research projects, leaner bureaucracy and less red tape for business, and using the Antarctic state’s passports to travel freely through Italy and overseas.

The most attractive benefit of all, however, was the five per cent tax rate being offered to new citizens. At least two cases, the Italian police report, involved the sale of land in Antarctica with associated noble titles.

The scheme was elaborate, with a range of bogus state institutions, an official government gazette, identity documents a website and a Facebook page having been created to dupe people.

The gang even went so far as to have created counterfeit identification documents such as passports and diplomatic identity cards that “perfectly correspond to international standards,” according to the Italian police.

According to the Italian State Police, the documents had been used by ‘citizens’ in hotels in Italy and abroad, during the course of police checks, at airports and for “illicit drug trafficking”.

Among those arrested this week were a former Guardia di Finanza (tax police) general, 72-year-old Mario Farnesi, and a former Carabinieri (paramilitary police) warrant officer, 56-year-old Emanuele Frasca.

More details on how Malta was to have been used as a money laundering and diplomatic base for the fictitious are expected to emerge once prosecutions begin in Italy.



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