700 people fall into ‘citizenship coup’ that created fake country in Antarctica

700 people fall into ‘citizenship coup’ that created fake country in Antarctica

A criminal organization has tricked more than 700 Italian residents into promising them citizenship of a country based in Antarctica. The problem is that such a nation, baptized on the fraud of the “theocratic Antarctic state of San Giorgio,” doesn’t even exist.

Twelve people were arrested today in an operation dubbed “The Island That Doesn’t Exist,” Italian newspaper La Reppublica reported.

The investigation began in April 2021 after police identified a building in Italy’s Catanzaro region that had been designated as the suspected country’s diplomatic headquarters. With the promise of being a nation with less bureaucracy, the gang promised its citizens a range of benefits, such as funding for projects, freedom of movement in Italy and other countries, and an exemption for vaccines against Covid19.

In order to acquire citizenship, the interested person had to pay an amount between 200 and 1,000 euros (about 1,000 to 5,200 R$ at the current exchange rate). Police estimate that 700 people residing across Italy were killed in the coup.

The group would still have used a number of tricks to lend credibility to the alleged country, such as creating institutions such as a head of state and even courts. In addition, there was also an “official” newspaper, website and identity documents valid for expatriation. The gang maintained a page on Facebook where they posted information and regulations about the fictional country.

The island’s supposed right to exist was guaranteed with “sovereignty and autonomous privileges” based on the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, a document signed by several countries that discusses ownership of the continent.

Among the suspects are a former Guardia di Finanza tax police general, Mario Farnesi, 72, and a former second lieutenant in the paramilitary Carabinieri police, Emanuele Frasca, 56. Both are retired and being placed under house arrest. Another 30 people are under investigation.

The gang have been charged with conspiracy to commit crimes, fraud, forgery and money laundering, ANSA reported.