Italy places public employees under investigation after a 67-year-old who never worked was paid $650,000 in salary

The man was employed as a civil servant in a hospital in Calabria. Photo: BBC
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Italian authorities have placed six public hospital employees in Southern Italy under investigation for abuse of office after they allegedly allowed a 67-year-old to be paid a total of 538,000 euros (US$650,000) in salary over 15 years without ever working.

The suspect, described by the Italian press as “king of absentees,” is also under investigation for alleged fraud and aggravated extortion, AP reported. Italian police said in a statement that the man allegedly had someone threaten a hospital superior in 2005 to keep him on the payroll. Subsequent superiors then failed to take action or sanction him even after launching an internal investigation.

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Police say the suspect was officially hired in 2005 in the fire safety department of the Pugliese-Ciaccio public hospital in Catanzaro and earned 538,000 euros salary over the following 15 years. They say they cross-referenced work schedules, cellphone records and testimony from fellow hospital workers to determine he never worked.

Six managers at the hospital are also being investigated in connection with the alleged absenteeism.

Two of the managers were part of a commission of inquiry launched by the hospital that, despite what the police said was ample evidence, determined the suspect couldn’t be disciplined. He was eventually officially fired in October.

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The arrests are the result of a lengthy police investigation into absenteeism and suspected fraud in the Italian public sector.

In another case, a police officer was filmed clocking on for work in his underwear because he lived in the same building he worked in, the Guardian reported. He was acquitted of accusations of fraud last year, according to the report.