Italian authorities have placed 56 people under investigation, arrested one person and placed four others under mandatory residence following an investigation into arranged marriages with Italian citizens to enable South American and North African migrants to obtain a stay permit, investigative sources said on July 24.
Finance police and prosecutors in Tuscany's coastal city of Livorno on July 24 said they have discovered an organization arranging marriages between Italian nationals and migrants to enable the foreigners, mostly South Americans and North Africans, to obtain a stay permit.
At least 24 arranged marriages were celebrated by public officials at the municipality of Livorno and one in the town of Rosignano Marittimo who were unaware of the scam, investigators said.
A total of 56 people have been placed under investigation. The suspects include a 55-year-old Dominican national who was arrested and four others who were placed under mandatory residence and who will have to report to judicial authorities.
Foreigners allegedly paid between 6,000-8,000 euros for a wedding
According to judicial authorities, each arranged marriage cost between 6,000 and 8,000 euros. Investigators said that the man who was arrested was at the center of the ring combining marriages while the four suspects placed under mandatory residence organized the weddings.
Prosecutors in Livorno are investigating the suspects on charges of aiding and abetting illegal immigration and of inducing public officials to forge public records.
24 arranged marriages
Investigators said proceeds from the arranged marriages aimed at obtaining a stay permit were divided between the Italian spouses -- 15 men and nine women from Livorno who allegedly agreed to the scam -- the 55-year-old Dominican national and the other suspects who are accused of collaborating to organize the weddings.
The foreigners who allegedly obtained a stay permit through marriage include 16 citizens of the Dominican Republic, two from Peru, as many from Nigeria, and one from Cuba, Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal
The operation that led to the arrest of one suspect and to the mandatory residence warrants and the order to notify to judicial authorities for four others, including a woman, were carried out between July 22 and July 23 by finance police.
A total of 100 officers were deployed for the operation which included 55 searches in the central and northern Italian provinces of Livorno, Siena, La Spezia, Turin and Padua.