Nature reserve fires started to secure payments from prostitutes

Investigators are finding that a sex racket and protection money are the reasons behind the fires that have plagued the nature reserve of Castel Fusano near Rome.

Nature reserve fires started to secure payments from prostitutes
File photo not related to story: Giovanni Isolino/AFP

Flames have resurfaced in the coastal nature reserve of Castel Fusano outside Rome, two weeks after fires tore through large swathes of the park, known as Rome's green heart. According to sources cited in Corriere della Sera, the flames ares till burning on Mt. Monna near Rome. 

Police believe the latest fire, as well as the July 17 flames, were caused by a gang of arsonists who were trying to intimidate prostitutes who work in the area. 

Rome's Mayor, Virginia Raggi, had called in the army to tackle what she described as an “environmental disaster” on July 17. 

Now investigators are sure the fires were started by criminal arsonists. Several days ago, according to Repubblica, Claudio Marson, a 63-year-old former RAI TV director, was found with a flyer in one hand and a lighter in the other amidst Castel Fusano's pines.

Police allege Marson was part of a racket that extorted money from local prostitutes. Corriere delle Sera says Marson 'rented' beds to sex workers and their clients in the reserve. The recent fires were meant as a warning signal to transvestite sex workers and others who refused to pay 'il pizzo'; protection money. 

READ MORE: Italy wildfires: Homes evacuated in Rome and Naples as police arrest four suspected arsonists

When forestry police intercepted Marson's car near the reserve and asked the former director why he was constantly ferrying transvestites and sex workers, Marson claimed: “I do it because in my directorship I am deepening the theme of gender diversity and the stories of transsexuals from this point of view are very interesting.” 

Ali Kakel, a 37-year-old of Iraqi origin, and Fabrizio Grimaldi, a 22-year-old Italian were arrested in July, suspected of being part of the extortion racket in Castel Fusano. Kakel was found trying to set fire to a home-made device in the reserve on July 26, according to La Stampa.

Romano Mancini, an Italian suspect, was also arrested in late July. Mancini is accused of having killed a Nigerian sex worker in the reserve in 2007. He is also accused of having shot a transvestite in the face in the same place in 1999, according to Il Giornale

More than 200 hectares of the Castel Fusano natural reserve have been destroyed by fires in the last month, according to Il Messaggero. Large swathes of vegetation in Castel Fusano were destroyed by fires in the year 2000. 

READ MORE: The firemen's call: Ragusa volunteer firemen started infernos to collect bonuses 


Italy’s president calls for ‘full truth’ on anniversary of Bologna bombing

President Sergio Mattarella said on Tuesday it was the state's duty to shed more light on the 1980 bombing of Bologna's train station, on the 42nd anniversary of the attack that killed 85 people and injured 200.

Italy's president calls for 'full truth' on anniversary of Bologna bombing

On August 2nd 1980, a bomb exploded in the railway station’s waiting room, causing devastation on an unprecedented scale.

Five members of terrorist groups were later convicted in relation to the bombing, the worst episode in Italy’s ‘Years of Lead’ period of political violence in the 1970s and 80s.

Most recently, in 2020, a former member of the far-right Armed Revolutionary Nucleus (NAR) was sentenced to life imprisonment for providing logistical support to those who carried out the attack.

But suspicions remain of cover-ups and the involvement of “deviant elements” within the nation’s security services, reported Italian news agency Ansa.

READ ALSO: Bologna massacre: 40 years on, questions remain over Italy’s deadliest postwar terror attack

“The bomb that killed people who happened to be at the station on that morning 42 years ago still reverberates with violence in the depths of the country’s conscience,” Mattarella said in a speech marking the anniversary on Tuesday.

“It was the act of cowardly men of unequalled inhumanity, one of the most terrible of the history of the Italian Republic.

A train compartment at Bologna station pictured following the 1980 bombing attributed to the neo-fascist terrorist organization Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari.

“It was a terrorist attack that sought to destabilise democratic institutions and sow fear, hitting ordinary citizens going about their everyday tasks.

“On the day of the anniversary our thoughts go, above all, to the relatives forced to suffer the greatest pain.

“The neo-fascist nature of the massacre has been established in court and further steps have been made to unveil the cover-ups and those who ordered the attack in order to comply with the Republic’s duty to seek the full truth”.

The bombing remains Western Europe’s fourth deadliest postwar terror attack, and one of the most devastating in Italy’s history.