Italian Mafia Linked to Renewable Energy Industry

Italian police / AP
January 23, 2013

Italian authorities are investigating the Sicilian mafia’s involvement in the renewable energy business, reports the Washington Post:

Because it receives more sun and wind than any other part of Italy, Sicily became one of Europe’s most obvious hotbeds for renewable energies over the past decade. As the Italian government began offering billions of euros annually in subsidies for wind and solar development, the potential profitability of such projects also soared — a fact that did not go unnoticed by Sicily’s infamous crime families.

Roughly a third of the island’s 30 wind farms — along with several solar power plants — have been seized by authorities. Officials have frozen more than $2 billion in assets and arrested a dozen alleged crime bosses; corrupt local councilors and mafia-linked entrepreneurs. Italian prosecutors are now investigating suspected mafia involvement in renewable energy projects from Sardinia to Apulia.

The Sicilian mafia used brute force and threats to acquire land and leases for wind and solar plants. They monopolized the industry by pushing established companies overseas.

The depth of the mafia’s involvement has been a gradually emerging story, with a first wave of arrests in 2010. After acquiring new evidence through a network of informants and wiretaps, authorities staged a second round of arrests last month.