The article titled “A University in Seborga? Not really…” that we published last February not only has raised a significant interest among our readers but has exposed an unbelievable worldwide scam that no one in Seborga could think of or imagine.
There is no doubt that the fame of The Principality has reached every corner of the world, attracting almost every day the curiosity of the media, engaging many supporters and boosting tourism which is good for the local economy. At the same time however this popularity has caught the attention of a few charlatans who have seen in Seborga a golden opportunity to pursue their own interests (and make money) to the detriment of the reputation and credibility of the Principality and its people.
The lack of an official presence of Seborga on the internet has opened up the opportunity for a proliferation of other websites that claim to be “official” (but in reality are not) and the spread of confusion and misleading activities that can only be classified as fraudulent!
While the Italian Police is conducting an investigation, SeborgaPress has also carried out its own research and the results are quite staggering and grim. The scam’s activities range from false pretences to the selling of titles (chivalry, business rank, etc), stamps, passports, coins (all fake of course), to the more alarming selling of accreditations to online universities.
“We have conducted our own investigation with the full support of Seborga’s local authorities” - declares Renzo Colla, the Editor of Seborga Times – “and for this we would like to thank in particular the Mayor of Seborga, Franco Fogliarini and his team of councillors and also the members of the Seborga Crown. We also appreciate the assistance and expertise of Mr George Brown, director of HigherEd Consulting, a private Consulting and Research Company based in Adelaide (Australia), in helping us to unravel the accreditation scam (http://www.higheredconsulting.com.au/). It’s about time we put an end to all this. Enough is enough, and for this reason SeborgaPress has decided to publicly denounce this scandal”.
As we have already pointed out in our previous article, there are several online educational institutions and online universities that claim their headquarters or representative office here in Seborga. Well, we have some bad news for those who think that they exist or are being misled to believe it. The reality is that there are no offices or even registered business of that type in Seborga. To help to visualize this reality, we publish the picture of the well known address: Via Miranda, that appears as valid in many contact pages of these institutions. Again, the reality (believe it or not) is that through that door that you see in the picture there is only a storeroom.
In our findings we have discovered that there is a so called “SBC – Antico Principato di Seborga’s Council for Distant Education, Culture and Faith” and “Council of Accreditation” (you can amuse yourself by visiting: http://www.seborga-edu.info/index.htmindex.htmindex.htm).
We won’t go into the tedious details of what this council has made up and claims to be and do, but basically its “mission” is to grant accreditations “to those institutes that “qualify”, in other words that pay for it. Yes, there are fees and you can find out by visiting the Payment Fees page.
This could be a perfectly private business and enterprise and as such we would have nothing against it. The problem is that this “Council of Accreditation” makes use of the name and status of the Principality of Seborga as if this organization (and the people behind it) have received the official right or permission to operate from the Seborgan authorities. Nothing could be more false, dishonest or deceitful than this.
SeborgaPress has found no evidence or proof that either the Seborga Council (from the Mayor downward) or the Seborga Crown (from the Prince downward) or any other local authority have issued to this organization the permission, consent or “beneplacito” to issue accreditations and to work. In fact neither this Council nor any other organisation of that kind exists or operates in Seborga.
As we already mentioned, in Seborga there are only a primary school and a preschool, run by the Italian Department of Education. There are no universities or educational institutions that operate from or in Seborga. This SBC Council is a private business and enterprise set up somewhere by someone and operates under false credentials.
In conducting our research, we realize that this particular type of activity has serious implications and consequences for many people: those who run online universities and courses and have paid “SBC Seborga Council” thinking to obtain a valid accreditation; and those students that have obtained or will obtain degrees that in reality are invalid.
Just to give an example, we read recently on the Daily News - The Voice of Bahrain that a chief physician plans to open an obesity control clinic in Bahrain and that this doctor has been awarded a PhD by Italy’s University of Seborga for his “Marmaki” treatment.
The damage caused to the reputation of Seborga by this accreditation business is already being felt and is becoming widespread. In many education departments and agencies in the world the name Seborga is well known not necessarily for the beauty of the place or for its peculiar history and status.
For them (unfortunately) Seborga is a notorious degree mill that causes headaches and puts international monitoring agencies on red alert. Recently the Inside Higher Ed, an online publication based in Washington D.C., published an article regarding (and questioning about) a new online “university” with associates, bachelors, and master’s degree-granting authority from Seborga (www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/05/24diulus).
The eLerners News Blog, referring to the same article writes: “Many authorities on diploma mills consider Seborga as fertile ground for these unaccredited institutions offering worthless degrees, having been home to now-defunct mills such as Pebble Hills University, James Monroe International University, and Miranda International University, a school connected to the infamous St. Regis University cluster of diploma mills.”
Another scam that the Seborgan authorities are publicly denouncing through our publications is related to the many websites that claim to be the official ones of Seborga. The most notorious, visited by people all over the world, are the ones run by the same person that in June 2001 was appointed by the then Mayor of Seborga (Franco Fogliarini) as “Director of Tourism of Seborga”. His name is Denis Pierre-Francois. At that time he offered his services “free of charge” to promote Seborga’s tourism abroad.
The Mayor and the council accepted his offer but one year later, after taking into account the results (zero) of his post, the Mayor dismissed him from his duty and title with a Decree dated August 2002 (see picture of the Decree).
Not only did the Mayor revoke his appointment of Director of Tourism of Seborga, he also requested Mr Denis Pierre-Francois to cease to make use of or to confer to himself or others any title, symbol, qualification or anything else associated with Seborga.
Do you think this was enough to stop him? Not really. He still maintains in his websites the title of Director of Tourism of Seborga, the title of secretary of foreign affairs, the director of SBC (Seborga Business Centre) and many others. He has established a network of people around the world who after paying the proper fees are bestowed with chivalry titles, business attaché titles, SBS representatives and ambassador’s titles. Not to mention the selling of passports (tourist and diplomatic), stamps, coins, souvenirs (all fakes of course) and last but not least the famous accreditations or licences to online universities. The truth is that at the moment the only way to buy original stamps, coins or souvenirs of the Principality is to personally visit Seborga and buy them from the local shops.
Not happy with that, through his websites he manages to control and filter almost any contact that people outside Seborga try to have with the Principality (this is how he managed to build his network and business) feeding them with false information. Denis Pierre-Francois does not live in Seborga (for obvious reasons) but people abroad are captivated by his manners and presentation and his websites that – although not updated – are quite full of information and photos to see.
The mayor of Seborga, Franco Fogliarini has informed SeborgaPress that the recently re-elected Council has plans to open soon an official Seborga website with the aim to resolve the current situation. We will, of course, inform our readers when this new and official website is operating. In the meantime, anyone who wishes to contact the Municipality is invited to use the official e-mail address, which is: firstname.lastname@example.org and not to use the ones that appear on other web pages (such as: email@example.com).
SeborgaPress and the Seborgan authorities are taking this opportunity to warn the public to be aware of non official websites, false e-mail addresses and scam activities. (SeborgaPress)
Here is a list of some dubious websites: