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Clean energy tainted by dirty money in Sicily  

Credit:  Nick Squires, APRIL 4, 2013, smh.com.au ~~

ROME: A Sicilian renewable energy tycoon nicknamed the “Lord of the Wind” has had pounds £1.1 billion ($1.59 billion) of allegedly mafia-related assets confiscated by Italian authorities in the biggest seizure of its kind.

Vito Nicastri, 57, is believed by police to be a frontman for Cosa Nostra and to have close links with one of Italy’s most wanted men, Matteo Messina Denaro, the “boss of bosses” for the Sicilian mafia.

The confiscation underlined fears that Italy’s clean energy sector has been infiltrated by dirty money from organised crime.

Investigators accused Mr Nicastri of investing millions of euros made from extortion, drug trafficking and other criminal activities in a string of companies, some which invested in wind farms on the island.

They suspect organised crime groups such as Cosa Nostra have laundered dirty money through the wind-generated energy sector, at the same time as taking advantage of generous subsidies, some of them paid for by the European Union.

A court in Trapani, in western Sicily, ordered the confiscation of the assets and businesses, which are located in Sicily and in Calabria, the southern region of the mainland which is the base for the ‘Ndrangheta mafia.

The assets, worth 1.3 billion euro, included more than 40 companies, nearly 100 properties, 66 bank accounts, life insurance policies, seven sports cars and luxury yachts. The assets were first frozen in 2010 when police became suspicious about Mr Nicastri’s business activities, but Wednesday’s action means that they have been definitively confiscated.

“These assets will now pass directly to the state,” said Arturo De Felice, the director of the Anti-mafia Investigative Directorate, one of the country’s elite crime-fighting bodies. “This is an unprecedented sum. It is something we are justifiably proud of.”

The Telegraph, London

Source:  Nick Squires, APRIL 4, 2013, smh.com.au

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