The seizure of a record 1.5 billion euros from a Sicilian businessman known as “Lord of the Wind” has put the spotlight on Mafia money-laundering through renewable energy ventures.
“The Mafia use clean energy to invest dirty money,” Sicilian journalist Lirio Abbate told AFP after police confiscated the assets from businessman Vito Nicastri on Tuesday.
The haul included no fewer than 43 wind and solar energy companies and around 100 properties including swank villas with swimming pools in Sicily’s western Trapani region, along with cars, a catamaran and bank accounts, the interior ministry said.
The infiltration of organised crime into the renewable energy sector is “a combination that is only now coming to light” in terms of legal action, said Abbate, a specialist in Mafia affairs who is under police protection.
“In the countryside it’s been apparent for longer because wind farms are springing up on land belonging to people with ties to the Mafia or obtained through violence,” he said.
Opposition Senator Giuseppe Lumia lamented: “The Cosa Nostra has managed to infiltrate the wind energy sector in the past few years by taking advantage of bad policies and bad bureaucracies.” […]
“It’s obvious that these companies were tied to the Mafia because they have never been targeted, while construction sites in other sectors have been attacked,” he said. […]
The seizure of Nicastri’s assets “confims the interest that organised crime has in renewable energy, which several annual reports on environmental issues have already stressed,” said Beppe Ruggiero, an official with the anti-Mafia association Libera. […]
The Mafia interest in clean energy is explained by the fact that it is a “new sector where there is more public money and less control”, Ruggiero said. “It allows the creation of new companies, and so the recycling of money. For organised crime, it’s a sector that was still unknown 15 years ago, but is becoming very important.
“They steal money from the state and in addition they sell them the energy they produce. They win twice,” Ruggiero said.Via Tim Blair, who comments:
The case dates back to 2010. According to Arturo de Felice, head of Italy’s anti-Mafia agency: “This is a sector in which money can easily be laundered.”