An Ill Wind: How the “Eco Mafia” Controls Wind Energy

In countries across Europe, criminals are investing in wind farms and other types of green energy as a way to launder dirty money. In fact, a growing “eco Mafia” in Italy is taking advantage of environmental grants offered by the Italian government and the European Union by entering the wind business. A combination of factors make wind power attractive to criminals. Not only is there a lack of regulation in the industry, but the high price for the product, complicated financing, and government subsidies make it all that more attractive. Wind power sells for a higher price in Italy than anywhere else in the world, which is why there are so many windmills dotting the Sicilian hills. While the country’s citizens have to look at a propeller-filled landscape, they keep quiet for fear of retribution. Meanwhile, legitimate wind providers get muscled out of licenses to build working farms, or they’re unwittingly sold licenses by the Mafia without knowing exactly who they’re dealing with. This Mafia-backed wind power extends beyond Italy, with Italian wind developers looking to source turbines and equipment to other regions in Europe. One mobster, who was sentenced in 2018, told officials that he had more than $1 million earmarked for regional authorities to get permits for new wind farms and he would make more than $17 million from selling the permits to large companies in the sector.