Italian police seized property and bank accounts worth $1.7 billion from a clean energy tycoon accused of ties with the Sicilian mafia, AFP reported. The property confiscated includes 43 wind and solar energy companies and 66 bank accounts.
Authorities accused Vito Nicastri, dubbed the “Lord of the Wind” for his heavy involvement in renewable energy, of laundering money for the Sicilian mafia by taking advantage of state subsidies and weak regulation of the renewable energy sector. Nicastri had “numerous and high-level contacts” in the mafia, Italy’s anti-mafia agency told AFP.
Nicastri’s assets were initially frozen in 2010, and he has been warned not to leave his hometown of Alcamo while the investigation continues.
In its 2013 Serious Organized Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA), Europol singled out Italian and Sicilian crime groups, and noted that organized crime groups “such as the Cosa Nostra and the ‘Ndrangheta are already involved in alternative energy (wind and solar) and waste management businesses, which they use to launder profits.”
By creating legitimate businesses through which to invest and extract money, the Sicilian mafia is attempting to break away from its reliance on traditional operations and find new ways of laundering money.
The seizure of Nicastri’s fortune is a major blow to the mafia, authorities say. Nicastri has been linked to Matteo Messina Denaro, widely reputed to be the godfather of La Cosa Nostra. The seizure "impacts in a significant way on the economic power of Matteo Messina Denaro, who is considered the lord of that land," Italy’s anti-mafia agency said.