Probe Finds Arsonists, State Officials, Set Greek Fires to Grab Land

June 4, 2018

ATHENS – Another spate of summer fires in Greece in 2017 were set by arsonists so that developers and profiteers could take land for their own use with no laws against taking burned land, a common tactic that has gone on for decades.

The fire service and police said the fires, most of them in Eastern Attica, on the Ionian island of Zakynthos and in the southern prefecture of Ilia were set by rackets who want forests reclassified as crop or grazing lands or for residential development.

Unidentified sources in the Citizens’ Protection Ministry told Kathimerini that an investigation into fires in the areas of Lagonissi and Anavysos, east of the capital, involved state officials who wanted to get in on the take by reclassifying and exploiting burned land, but no names were given.
Investigators found official documents purportedly certifying that the area, comprising some 690 hectares (1750 acres) of pine forest, had been burned about 10 years ago.

A prosecutor on Zakynthos, where a record 167 wildfires broke out last summer, destroying 3,000 hectares (7413 acres) of forest ordered another probe. The island is wildly popular with unruly tourists, many of them drunk hooligans from England and other countries and ripe for profitable development although already overrun with building.

The paper said the Zakynthos investigation is aimed at exposing a wide network of land-grabbers operating on the island and charges have been brought against five suspects.

Investigators said they believe the 2017 fires near the town of Pyrgos, where 36 people died in a raging forest fire 10 years earlier, were started by marijuana farmers trying to cover up what they were doing and were set as helicopters were overhead looking for the profitable weed.


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