Claudio Formenton, a 64-year-old Italian businessman, traveled to Ivory Coast in November. There, a group of criminals kidnapped him for three days until the police managed to free him in a raid. The man had told his family that he was traveling to the country to help missionaries with humanitarian work. However, Italian prosecutors now believe he may have been framed for an alleged fake profile posing as a young Ivorian woman.
The prosecutors of Roma they think that Formenton may have been misled. The report speaks of a contact by social networks of the Italian with someone who presumed to be an Ivorian woman named Olivia Martens.
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According to information provided by the Rome prosecutor’s office, for months the couple had conversations and would have developed a romantic relationship. The Italian businessman would have received a request for help from Martens, who would have told him that he had legal problems and that he needed financial assistance.
On November 27, Formenton, owner of a marble processing company in Fosso, Italy, took a week’s vacation, telling his family that he would travel to the Ivory Coast to work in a missionary community in Abidjan, in the south of the country.
As soon as he left the airport, he found a taxi driver waiting for him holding a plaque with the words “Formenton” and, thinking that he was a collaborator of the missionaries, he got into the car. Then an odyssey began, where the businessman was transferred by various places until he reached a hotel in Bonoua, a little east of Abidjan.
But the criminals’ plan was foiled in just three days, when a large group of local agents arrived and broke into the establishment where the victim was being held, who they managed to free on December 2.
The month before, the lawyer Stefano Marrone told local media that the Italian had gone to the Ivory Coast to do volunteer work: “He was in contact with local missionaries. For years he has been doing volunteer work on behalf of the populations of poor countries, especially in Africa.”
After the kidnapping, the lawyer said: “He is someone who does everything he can for others, always willing to lend a hand to everyone. He has a strong attachment to religion. He was the subject of a sudden kidnapping, which fortunately was resolved without consequences.”
Upon returning to Italy, the Rome Prosecutor’s Office, responsible for the kidnapping of compatriots abroad, began an investigation and, by crossing data between Formenton’s statements with his own data, a second version of the businessman’s visit to Ivory Coast, in which He would not have only visited the country for humanitarian aid, but also for the encounter with a young woman he never got to know.
Olivia Martens, according to the network profile, was an Ivorian girl who had told Formenton about herself but also about the difficulties in paying lawyers who had to help her solve legal problems. The Italian would have rejected the requests for money, but would have accepted the idea of visiting her in the Ivory Coast, taking advantage of the collaboration with the missionaries.
The kidnapping, then, would respond to the result of a trap, and the Italian investigators strongly doubt that the young Ivorian really exists. It seems that the Venetian businessman is not the only victim of the mysterious Olivia Martens: investigators suspect that, through social media, he has attracted other wealthy Italians.
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