Italy closes in on fake

July 13, 2001

After a two-year investigation, Italian police have arrested seven people in connection with an alleged international racket selling bogus degrees in dentistry for between £30,000 and £80,000.

Police also confirmed that an arrest warrant had been issued for the deputy rector of the private Ecological University of Bucharest, Mircea Vatasescu.

Investigators claimed that "universities" in Mexico, Uruguay, Peru, Hungary and Romania issued more than 200 degrees that were then "recognised" in the European Union through accomplices in Spain.

Italy's Carabinieri police force believe the operation was masterminded by an Italian who acted as a broker between the would-be orthodontists and the "universities". About £30,000 was charged for each degree, with up to a further £50,000 to have the degree recognised throughout the EU.

Those arrested on charges of criminal association, fraud and forgery include Giovanni Turco, a Florence-based international lawyer, five Italians in Italy and an Italian working in Spain.

The Carabinieri tracked down and confiscated 205 bogus degrees, but investigators believe there may be many more. So far, 209 dental surgeries, offices and homes in Italy and abroad have been searched and seven dental surgeries closed down as a result. Investigations are under way in Madrid, Bucharest and Budapest.

A Carabinieri spokesman said: "The degrees we have confiscated involve Italians, and all the surgeries we have closed down are in Italy. We do not know of ramifications in other EU countries."

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