Criminals in Italy have defrauded hundreds of hundreds of thousands of euros by founding a fictitious state and allegedly associated benefits.

According to the police, the perpetrators lured people with the fact that the alleged country in Antarctica has a low tax rate and no compulsory vaccinations.

The case began in April 2021 with a house search in Catanzaro, southern Italy, where investigators searched an alleged diplomatic headquarters of the "Sovereign Antarctic State of St. George" there, the police said on Thursday.

More than 700 people residing in Italy were persuaded by the perpetrators and applied for citizenship in the non-existent country for 200 to 1000 euros.

According to the investigators, the stolen sum amounts to around 400,000 euros, which were laundered via an account in Malta.

Twelve people who were placed under house arrest in several cities throughout Italy are suspects.

The judiciary accuses them of fraud, the production of forged documents and association for a crime, among other things.

She is also investigating against 30 other people who are at large.