What Made Hundreds Believe in a Fictional State?
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The “Sovrano Stato Antartico di San Giorgio”—the Sovereign State of Antarctic St. George—was a phantom nation that promised luxuries and privileges in exchange for citizenship concocted and perpetuated by a cadre of fraudsters, showcasing the tenacity of con artistry in the digital age.
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The Elusive Antarctic Dream
The plot unraveled around a fictitious state that claimed to possess a swath of Antarctic territory, specified by distinct geographical coordinates. Through a now-inaccessible website and a Facebook page, this sham state proclaimed a fabricated capital named “Stazione Città di Sant’Anna,” located, of course, in Antarctica. The façade went further, alleging a legal office in Lugano, Switzerland, and setting up an entire governmental structure that included a head of state, ministers, and various institutional roles.
For a fee ranging from €200 to €1000, over 700 individuals were led to believe that they could acquire citizenship from this phantasmal entity. The scheme promised a plethora of benefits: nominal taxation at 5%, immunity from Italian taxation, asset protection from expropriation in Italy, and even exemption from vaccination requirements. Moreover, medical practitioners with revoked or suspended licenses were offered a respite: the opportunity to continue their practice under the sovereignty of the ‘State of Antarctic St. George.’
The individuals charged in the scam hail from various parts of Italy, but the main operatives were located in Catanzaro (Calabria), Alcamo (Sicily), and Teramo (Abruzzo). Investigations led by the public prosecutor’s office in Catanzaro began as early as April 2021. Among those arrested are two notable figures: Mario Farnesi, a 72-year-old retired Finance Guard general who posed as the ‘prince’ of the fictitious state, and Emanuele Frasca, a 56-year-old retired Carabinieri marshal. They were, in essence, the ringleaders, aided by Damiano Bonventre, a 71-year-old ex-commissioner in the military corps of the Red Cross.
The charges against them are severe: criminal association, fraud, fabrication and possession of counterfeit documents valid for foreign travel, and money laundering. Through this elaborate scam, they had illicitly obtained at least €400,000, deposited into an account in Malta.
A Digital Mirage
The fictional realm was no impromptu caper; its complexity suggests meticulous planning. The ‘state’ even had an assortment of ‘official’ documents, designed to persuade its ‘citizens’ of its authenticity. To lend an air of officialdom, these were published with the header of a so-called “official gazette.” In this manner, a constitutional charter comprising 94 articles, among numerous other communications, was disseminated to its ‘citizens.’ Despite these efforts, a closer scrutiny would reveal the clumsiness of the forgery, including two purported newspapers named “La Teocrazia” and “The Antarctic Tribune.”
While the imaginary Sovereign State of Antarctic St. George declared its foundation year as 2011, it is still unclear when the scam actually began. What is certain, however, is that its Facebook page has been in existence since 2015.
The scam targeted vulnerable populations with irresistible offers. Those hoodwinked were promised tax benefits and exemption from vaccination mandates. There was also a lure for medical practitioners who had been struck off the medical register, offering them an illegal path to continue their profession.
While this case is not unique in the annals of Italian legal history, it has garnered attention due to the timing—coming in the lull of a news-thirsty summer—and the sheer number of those implicated. Over 700 people were allegedly duped, a figure that warrants introspection into the gullibility of society in the age of digital connectivity.
Topics: Italy’s elaborate Antarctic scam, How the Sovereign State of Antarctic St. George was exposed, fake Antarctic state citizenship, Italian law enforcement arrests in scam, house arrest in Italy’s Sovereign State hoax, why hundreds fell for a fake Antarctic state
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