photo by Sebastiano Pitruzzello (Flickr CC)

On Tuesday Italian police seized Mafia-linked assets worth an unprecedented €1.5 billion from a Sicilian businessman known as the ‘Lord of the Winds’.

The seizure of holdings from 43 mainly renewable energy companies included land, sports cars and bank accounts. It signifies a shift in operations for Italy’s mafia; from the illegal dumping of toxic waste to the laundering of money through solar and wind power projects. According to members of the Italian press, this transition has been going on for years.

From a France 24 report:

Throughout Italy, organised crime has invested heavily in renewable energies and in waste processing, laundering the profits made from drug trafficking and cashing in on generous subsidies provided by the state and the European Union.

Italy’s renewable energy industry is made all the more attractive by EU subsidies and the highest fixed prices for wind energy in the world. Since the mafia is so entrenched in the Italian economy, it only makes sense that the growing renewable energy market would be affected. The problem is more pronounced in the poorer south of the country, where the development of wind and solar power offer a way forward for entrepreneurs.

From an article in the Independent:

Recent estimates suggest the total annual turnover of Italy’s main organised crime groups is around €100bn (£83bn), or 7 per cent of GDP. Officials, including the Bank of Italy governor, Mario Draghi, have argued that organised crime has perpetuated poverty in the south of the country.