Italian police have connected a parish priest to a forgery operation that saw over a thousand Brazilians illegally buy Italian citizenship papers in a business worth five million euros.
The investigation into the group that was allegedly helping people illegally acquire the Italian documents took place over the last year with police making seven arrests in the commune of Verbania in Piedmont, Italian newspaper Il Giornale reports.
Each set of documents cost the Brazilians around 7,000 euros, paid in cash for an “all-inclusive” package with the organisation even offering day trips on Lake Maggiore as well as local food and drink tastings for their clients.
The group was able to guarantee the citizenship documents by tricking and lying to local government officials who were shown requisites of Italian citizenship by the group.
Several of the “new Italians” even posed with their new passports outside of the Verbania town hall and posted the images to social media.
Several of the Brazilian customers are said to have used the passports as a means to enter the United States and Canada due to the more relaxed entry visas for European Union member states.
The priest who was arrested in connection with the organisation is said to have helped forge certificates of baptism in exchange for cash.
French Police Bust Network of Identity Fraud Fake Underage Migrants https://t.co/Ob6atpxNYS
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Populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini congratulated police on the bust saying that controls and respect for the laws on citizenship were needed.
The bust comes as the debate on birthright citizenship, also known as jus soli, has once again returned to Italy following the revelation that the boy who saved 51 children from being set on fire by a Senegalese migrant was a non-citizen born in Italy.
The Democratic Party, which has been a supporter of birthright citizenship, have used the situation to advocate for the policy, while Salvini has suggested that citizenship could be granted to 13-year-old Rami Shehata as an exception to the current rule.