Police in Italy are investigating dozens of people who are suspected of having embezzled funds from the European Union to purchase lavish villas, televisions, furniture and to hold sumptuous weddings.
At least €1.3 million in EU cash was fraudulently diverted for use not designated, according to police. The money was intended for the development of tourism.
Tax officials have seized cash and properties valued at more than €1 million ($1.3 million) from suspects in the town of Vibo Valentia in Calabria.
Two government officials from Calabria who were in charge of distributing the EU money, were also under investigation.
Calabria is the home base of the 'Ndrangheta criminal organization.
Agence France Presse reported that the area around Vibo Valentia, while a popular destination for travelers, is in dire need of infrastructure improvements.
Late last year, the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF said in a report that Italy and Bulgaria were the two EU member states with the highest number of fraud investigations.
The geographical breakdown of incoming information, focusing on EU member states and candidate countries, shows that a significant share of new information continues to relate to a small number of countries, said the report.
Of the 419 probes OLAF handled, 81 were in Bulgaria and 41 in Italy.
OLAF said since 1999 it has conducted 3,500 fraud investigations and has recovered more than €1.1 billion in EU money.