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€1.3 billion seizure of wind farm magnate’s assets

ALCAMO – The shadow of Matteo Messina Denaro, the most wanted Mafia criminal still at liberty, looms over assets valued at €1.3 billion seized by the Anti-Mafia Investigation Department (DIA). The owner of the property is wind-farm king Vito Nicastri, 57, a successful Sicilian businessman who has now been ordered not to leave the town where he resides, Alcamo, halfway between Palermo and Trapani.

MAFIA BUSINESS EMPIRE – The seizure is the largest ever made in Italy, as DIA director Arturo De Felice explained. Former Ancona police chief Mr De Felice has headed the DIA, Italy’s equivalent of the FBI, since last year. “It’s one way of striking at the heart of Cosa Nostra”, said sources at the DIA offices in Palermo, coordinated by the Trapani public prosecutor’s office and Palermo-based DIA magistrates for this huge property seizure. Padlocks have been put on forty-three alternative energy generation-related companies and equity holdings, ninety-eight houses, blocks of flats, land and warehouses, seven motor vehicles and sailing vessels, and sixty-six “available funds”, in other words current accounts, deposits of securities, investment funds and the like.

UPWARDLY MOBILE ELECTRICIAN – Investigators put Mr Nicastri’s career under the microscope, suspicious that he might have become a big-time businessman “thanks to a conscious and constant contiguity to the interests of organised crime” and on the basis of “a whirlwind of deals and relationships, some with companies based in Luxembourg, Denmark and Spain”. It was a rise made possible by “closeness to the most prominent members of the Mafia” who are alleged to have enabled Mr Nicastri to acquire “a leadership position in this sector in several regions – Lombardy, Lazio and Calabria – as well as in western Sicily”.

SUSPECT WEALTH – Mr Nicastri’s web of wealth was exposed by the DIA in a complex series of financial investigations before the director issued the property and personal restraint orders. Mr De Felice also stressed “the existence of a substantial lack of proportion between the assets owned by Nicastri and his declared income”.

TURNKEY WIND FARMS – Investigators carried out a comprehensive examination of criminal proceedings against Mr Nicastri and of many other events related to the construction and subsequent sale of turnkey wind farms and photovoltaic power systems worth millions of euros. Working on the basis of pizzini notes found at the time of the men’s arrest, prosecutors further allege that Palermo-based gangsters Salvatore and Sandro Lo Piccolo were involved in the business. The link brings investigators closer to Messina Denaro and scorches a little more earth around Cosa Nostra’s elusive pimpernel.