The Mafia goes green

The FT has an interesting story today about an investigation into Mafia involvement in multi-million-euro wind farm deals in Sicily.

Italian and EU subsidies for the building of wind farms and the world’s highest guaranteed rates, €180 ($240, £160) per kwh, for the electricity they produce have turned southern Italy into a highly attractive market exploited by organised crime.

‘Turned’? Shurely it always was…

A criminal investigation called “Operation Wind” revealed Mafia promises to local officials in Mazara del Vallo of money and votes in exchange for help in approving wind farm projects.

The Mafia suspects were alleged to be linked to Matteo Messina “Diabolik” Denaro, a fugitive clan boss on ltaly’s most wanted list.

Prosecutors suspect the hand of the Mafia in fixing permits and building wind farms that are then sold on to Italian and eventually foreign companies.

Several wind farms built by companies suspected of being linked to the Mafia have not functioned for one or two years, in some cases because of shoddy construction. “This is the amazing thing, that developers got public money to build wind farms which did not produce electricity,” the prosecutor said.

This is not the first massive scam in the renewable sector, nor will it be the last. Governments are about to throw hundreds of billions of dollars at this sector, oversight will be low, and the opportunities for rip-offs will be huge.