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Renewable Energy and the Mafia: an Intertwined History

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There seems to be some sort of link between renewable energy and the mafia. The Italian Police have recently uncovered another tie linking Cosa Nostra (Our Thing) to legitimate businesses, including those in renewable energy.

More than $2 billion have been confiscated from the mafia by the police. The law enforcement agency also seized 30 percent of the wind farms built in Sicily and arrested some in the highest possible circles: corrupt officials and business people, but the story is far from being over.

In 2010, over 40 companies, along with lands, buildings, factories, bank accounts, stocks, cars and yachts were confiscated from Vito Nicastri, the businessman also known as “Lord of the Wind.”

Nicastri invested in wind turbine and solar cell factories, and at the time everyone thought that was the end of it. Recent history just disproved that – maybe in three years we’ll see other evidence that some other mob boss made billions from a prosperous businesses in renewable energy. Arrests will be made, some other politicians will probably fall, and so on.

According to mnn, the mob seems to be interested in alternative energy for multiple reasons: Sicily is a very windy/sunny island in the Mediterranean. A second reason would be that European countries have given significant subsidies to the renewable energy sector in recent years, which means there’s room for more, and the pie will only get bigger over time.

One other reason we may suspect is that renewable energy is a legitimate business and could always cover for the mafia’s doubtful actions through money laundering.

Other countries are also not immune to mafia-style business. Besides Italy and Spain, Eastern European and West African countries have also seen a significant increase in the number of cases since 2007 involving fraud and corruption in the wind energy sector.

The mob tentacles are widespread in so many branches of the economy that it’s hard to destroy them without endangering the economy itself and the integrity of entire countries. Just like with alcohol, you can’t just quit after so many centuries when corruption gave the mafiosi access to some of the world’s darkest secrets and businesses. But that doesn’t justify the image (and financial) losses that the cleantech industry has suffered because of such criminality.

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