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November 11, 2004
There be gold in them thar training schemes I tell ye!

This story reminded me that a century ago, one of the greatest criminal minds of the time was Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes' great antagonist.

A criminal gang of professionals and academics led by a Sicilian professor defrauded the European Union of millions of pounds in a fake youth training programme, Italian police claimed yesterday after a string of dawn raids across the country.

Among those arrested was the ring's alleged mastermind, Prof Salvatore Messina, 51, a Sicilian academic with the Université Paris 13 in France, who also lectures at the University of Palermo.

So what subject did Professor Messina profess? Ideally, he would be some kind of (im)moral philosopher, of the sort for whom crime is merely the revolutionary impulse of a repressed class, in this case the professor class, striking back against late capitalist hegemony. Nothing so elevated, I'm afraid.

Prof Messina is president of the Permanent Observatory for Tourism in the Mediterranean (OPTM), and edits a quarterly entitled Sicilia, L'isola del Tesoro, (Sicily, the Treasure Island) which the OPTM publishes. The other six arrested were all described as being in Prof Messina's entourage, including a former assistant in Sicily's regional department for professional training.

Treasure Island! No doubt this magazine title was one of the clues that told the Italian police that they were onto something.

As higher education becomes bigger and bigger business, we can expect more stories like this, I fear. My hearties.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:36 AM
Category: Higher educationTraining
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