If you look at it in one way, this is pretty good news. After all, if renewable energy weren’t a growing market with potential for profit, why would the mob have any interest in it? From the Washington Post:
The still-emerging links of the mafia to the once-booming wind and solar sector here are raising fresh questions about the use of government subsidies to fuel a shift toward cleaner energies, with critics claiming huge state incentives created excessive profits for companies and a market bubble ripe for fraud. China-based Suntech, the world’s largest solar panel maker, last month said it would need to restate more than two years of financial results because of allegedly fake capital put up to finance new plants in Italy. The discoveries here also follow so-called “eco-corruption” cases in Spain, where a number of companies stand accused of illegally tapping state aid.
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.
Unsurprisingly, the discovery of deep Mafia infiltration in a heavily subsidized industry prompted the government to step in.
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.
My initial optimism aside, this is clearly bad news for the sector in Italy. In 2011, Italy led the world in new solar capacity and was fourth in overall renewable investment, according to the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century [PDF]. 2013 will almost certainly be less successful.
It does, however, provide inspiration for the script I’ve been developing, working title: Godfather IV. The only line I have so far is, “Leave the solar panel; take the cannoli.” But I think it shows promise.
- Sting operations reveal Mafia involvement in renewable energy, Washington Post