Chill winds blow for Italian Mafia as the Mob's 'green' assets are seized
Published 16/09/2010 | 05:00
AFTER decades of drug-running, extortion and prostitution, the Mafia appears to have found a rather more ecological way of laundering their money: green power.
And if the assets of the Italian police's latest target are any indication, the Mafia is embracing the renewable energy business with an enthusiasm that would make Al Gore look like a dilettante. The surprising revelation of organised crime's new green streak came as Italian police said yesterday they had made the largest recorded seizure of Mob assets -- worth €1.5bn-- from the Mafia-linked Sicilian businessman Vito Nicastri, who had vast holdings in alternative energy concerns, including windfarms.
Organised crime in Italy has previously been notorious for trading in environmental destruction -- principally earning billions of euro by illegally dumping toxic waste. But most of the newly seized assets are in the form of land, property and bank accounts in Sicily, the home of Cosa Nostra and in the neighbouring region of Calabria, the base of the rival 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate.
Police said the operation was based on a 2,400-page investigative report and followed 54-year-old Mr Nicastri's arrest last year. He has since been released without charge, and has denied wrongdoing.
But General Antonio Girone, the head of the national anti-Mafia agency DIA, said that Mr Nicastri, known as "lord of the winds", was linked to Matteo Messina Denaro, the fugitive believed to be the Sicilian Mafia's "boss of bosses".
Recent estimates suggest the total annual turnover of Italy's main organised crime groups is around €100bn, or 7pc of GDP. Officials have argued that organised crime has perpetuated poverty in the south of the country. (© Independent News Service)