Italian mafia have turned to wind farm investment to launder money and benefit from EU subsidies, according to a Europol report.
Winds farms, and renewable energy in general, are the most popular target for laundering money, Europe’s policing agency concluded after analysing the financial activities of Italy’s four mafia groups.
‘The Italian mafia is investing more and more in renewable energy, especially in wind farms, to profit from generous European grants paid for by member states which allow them to mix dirty money with legitimate economic activities,’ the report said according to The Telegraph.
Earlier this year Italian police seized more than £1billion in assets from a Sicilian wind farm magnate because of his alleged links to the Mafia.
The carabinieri confiscated 1.3 billion Euros from Vito Nicastri, 57, through 43 of his energy companies, 98 properties and several bank accounts.
The anti-mafia agency said it was the biggest-ever seizure of mafia-linked assets.
As well as warehouses, and villas, Nicastri’s vast portfolio includes luxury cars and a catamaran.
Attracted by generous EU and state subsidies and lax controls, the Mafia have increasingly used clean energy as a way to launder dirty money.
In the south, where most of the development has taken place, clans have been able to wield its influence to strong arm landowners into accepting the farms, destroying swathes of countryside.
Other windfarms, built with public money, have never functioned.
Nicastri, dubbed ‘Lord of the Wind’ in Sicily, because of his massive renewables investments, is known to have links to Italy’s most-wanted godfather, Matteo Messina Denaro, who has been on the run since 1993.
The Italian anti mafia agency DIA said it was the largest seizure of mafia-linked assets in the country’s history.
Agency head Arturo de Felice said: ‘This is a sector in which money can easily be laundered.
‘Operating in a grey area helped Nicastri to build up his business over the years.’
Since 2010 Nicastri has effectively been under house arrest, forbidden from leaving his home town of Alcamo in western Sicily.
Investigators said the businessman had ‘maintained constant relations with members of Cosa Nostra’ in Sicily, as well as having contacts with the ‘Ndrangheta mafia in Calabria, on the Italian mainland.
This relationship allegedly ‘facilitated his transformation from an electrician into a businessman specialising in the production of electricity from renewable sources, giving him a prominent position in the south’, Italy’s Ansa news agency reports.
The seizure ‘impacts in a significant way on the economic power of Matteo Messina Denaro, who is considered the lord of that land [Sicily]’, the anti-mafia agency said.
Italy banned nuclear power after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 and has to buy in much of its energy from Switzerland and France.
The country has invested heavily in renewables and has the third most wind farms in Europe, after Germany and Spain.
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