Any fan of The Sopranos will know that the Mafia is supposedly in the business of “waste management”, as disposing of rubbish makes a good cover for other more nefarious dealings. Now it appears that even the Mob are going green, as a Sicilian investigation into Mafia links to wind power gets under way.
Subsidies from the EU and Italian government combined with the world’s highest wind power rates of €180 (£160) per kwh produced has seen the Mafia getting into the business of renewables, with disastrous results.
According to Roberto Scarpinato, the anti-Mafia prosecutor in charge of the investigations, sham companies set up by organised crime bosses dominate the Italian wind power sector. He accuses the Mafia of controlling wind farm permits by manipulating their business and political connections.
Wind farms built by companies with suspected Mafia links have not produced power for the past couple of years, despite receiving taxpayer money to fund their construction. The Mafia is also suspected of protecting their interests by destroying two rival wind towers as they lay in storage.
It seems there is at least one honest man in the industry, however. Salvatore Moncada owns the largest Sicilian wind power company, Moncada Energy Group. His five wind farms produce around 100 megawatts, but the Mafia have been a constant threat. He refuses to pay “pizzo” – extortion money – and has pulled out from projects he believes to be Mafia controlled. He required a 24-hour police escort for 18 months, but believes the danger is now over.
Italy’s problems aren’t though, as the Mafia’s control over wind could have wider-reaching implications. Despite being fourth in Europe for installed wind power capacity, Italy is not on track to meet EU emissions targets by 2020. The science and technology to fight climate change might be in place, but once again it seems that people are the problem.