Italians who complain public employees tend to slack at work have found new evidence to back their claim thanks to a police investigation into a northern city council, which resulted in almost 200 indictments. Detectives said scores of civil servants in the Mediterranean city of Sanremo, famous for its casino and music festival, adopted a variety of processes to avoid work.

The excessively laid-back office environment was epitomised by a plump policeman secretly recorded on camera clocking in for work in what appeared to be a pair of Speedos, just to leave the premises straight afterwards for the beach.

The man was one of 35 people arrested at the end of a two-year police operation ironically named "Operation Stakhanov", after the legendarily hard-working Soviet coalminer.

The probe was launched following complaints by angry members of the public, reportedly including former city mayor Maurizio Zoccarato, that the council's offices laid often suspiciously empty.

Investigators placed hidden cameras inside the building, which was once a luxury hotel know as the Palazzo Bellevue, and discovered an avalanche of irregularities, with the clocking-in system being widely abused.

Some employees, like the policeman, swiped their ID card but never actually got in the office, promptly exiting the door they had just entered to go about personal business instead. A woman was captured on camera clocking in wearing her dressing gown and sleepers.

Others did not even bother commuting to work, letting a spouse, friend or colleague swipe their ID for them. Police said an employee routinely went kayaking during working hours and even billed time spent rowing as overtime.

Overall 72% of 271 employees monitored during the inquiry were found to have breached rules. 196 have been indicted, including 35 that have been placed under house arrest facing charges of fraud.