Sicilian anti-mafia judges have issued a freezing order on assets and money registered under a Valletta-based company which investigations have revealed to be connected to one of the world’s most wanted mafia bosses, Matteo Messina Denaro.
Known to be the current ‘boss of bosses’ to Sicily’s notorious ‘Cosa Nostra’, Denaro was always considered to be the Mafia’s most prolific financial brain, who invested and laundered billions of drug and extortion money all over the world, including Malta on various occasions.
On the run for the past 25 years, Denaro has this week hit the headlines in Italy for his connections to the highly lucrative sector of renewable energy.
Months of investigations in Palermo have yielded Denaro’s links to Sicily’s wind farm energy, through a series of companies which generate governmental contracts, and money which is then funnelled through an elaborate scheme of financial transactions, and eventually end up in a company registered to an address in Archbishop Street, in Valletta.
Investigators from Sicily’s anti-mafia pool of magistrates have identified Eryngium as the Maltese company which was allegedly the recipient of such financial transactions, and ordered an immediate freeze of an estimated €1.3 million in assets.
According to the investigators, the company was created by a “mastermind” in financial and economic affairs, identified as Messina University head of the faculty of economics, Professor. Melo Martella, who has been served with a warrant for his arrest.
Others said to be connected to Eryngium and its mother-company Eryngium Holdings Limited – also registered in Malta – is Nino Scimemi from the town of Salemi, and Vito Nicastri from Alcamo, who earned himself the nickname as ‘king of the wind’ for his involvement in a number of wind farms around the Italian peninsula, and who is at the centre of a number of investigations by police for his role in illicit business.
Investigators have identified Notabile Consulting Group Limited in Archbishop Street, Valletta, as the fiduciary which holds the company’s interests in Malta.
Notabile’s managing director Simon Vella refused to comment when contacted, adding that as a fiduciary, he was obliged to keep mum. The companies have meanwhile been declared to be in dissolution.
This was not the first time that Messina Denaro set his eyes on Malta.
During the 1990s, he masterminded a financial operation which, through a number of bogus Italian construction and leisure companies, planned to submit a multi-billion offer to the Maltese government which was about to launch an internation bid for the lease of Manoel Island.
An emissary for Messina Denaro had met up in a hotel in Rome with Victor Balzan, a Maltese national – known for his links with former Labour works minister Lorry Sant – who was to pave the way for the mafia to take over the contract and convert Manoel Island into a casino haven.
Alerted by Italian authorities, the Maltese government suspended the bid and re-opened the call a few years later.
Earlier investigations had placed Victor Balzan at the heart of a multi-million drug bust by the American Drugs Enforcement Agency and Italy’s anti-mafia police.
Code named ‘Operation Green Ice’ and ‘Sole 1’ and ‘Sole 2’ US and Italian forces raided a flotilla of Sicilian fishing boats all registered in Messina Denaro’s fishing village Mazzara del Vallo, which were used to traffic tonnes of cocaine, hashish and heroin from North Africa, via Malta to Sicily and then to the United States.
The operation was the prelude to Giovanni Falcone’s renowned success in uncovering the so called ‘Pizza Connection’ which revealed the Sicilian mafia’s illicit exports to the United States.