EU politico: Organized crime, green energy has transnational proportions

Sonia Alfano

Sonia Alfano, a member of the European Parliament from Italy, talked with the publication Guidambiente Rinnovabili about organized crime and the renewable energy sector. (Photo: European Parliament)

Sonia Alfano, a member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Italy, told a reporter in late January that the green economy “represents the final frontier for organized crime…the phenomenon has now assumed transnational proportions.”

Alfano’s home country is no stranger to organized crime’s involvement in renewable energy. In 2012 Italian officials arrested 6 people suspected of Mafia involvement in the green energy sector. The BBC reported, “Several bogus Italian companies have fraudulently obtained EU grants for renewable energy projects.”

The science and research site said:

“Police said mafia bosses had obtained contracts to build photovoltaic and wind energy systems in Palermo, Agrigento and Trapani.”

Some of the money they made went to fugitive mafia chief Matteo Messina Danaro, currently one of the world’s top wanted criminals.

The six people arrested are suspected of mafia association and corruption.

The mafia has been heavily involved in renewable energy in Italy for years.

Russia Today cited a Europol report in 2013:

“The Italian mafia is investing more and more in renewable energy, especially in wind farms, to profit from generous European grants paid for by member states which allow them to mix dirty money with legitimate economic activities.”

In 2013 a few media outlets in the U.S. took note. The Washington Post reported:

“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 ‘eco-corruption’ cases in Spain, where a number of companies stand accused of illegally tapping state aid.”

Alfano told Guidambiente Rinnovabili there was also an indication of a “joint venture” between interests in Italy and China.

Alfano said tax havens, banking secrecy, and lax penalties are reasons organized crime can flourish.

In the U.S., although no reports of organized crime involvement have emerged yet, cronyism and poorly vetted loans have surfaced in the green energy sector via the Dept. of Energy and the scandal-plagued Environmental Protection Agency. There has also been one presumably lone wolf style crime, with one EPA employee bilking U.S. taxpayers out of approximately $1 million.

Most Americans, largely due to neglect by media, don’t realize the potential for corruption in unaccountable government agencies that wield heavy police powers.

Alfano has personal experience with tragedy at the hands of the Mafia in Italy. Her father, Beppe Alfano, was a teacher and a pioneering investigative journalist in that country. He was assassinated in the province of Messina on January 8th, 1993.

The Times-Argus (Vermont) reported on Wednesday about corruption in Europe and a growing sense of corruption in the U.S., drawing on information about Italy’s investigation given by an informant interviewed by the BBC, Antonio Birrittella:

“All these funds from the EU were seen as a gift to the Mafia, easy pickings, especially the development of wind farms and renewable energy,” he said.

Birrittella told the BBC that today’s Mafia has reinvented itself as a “white-collar organization that has siphoned off millions in EU funds through a combination of shell companies and the infiltration of regional bodies which distribute the subsidies.”

The Times-Argus said, “[C]orruption has cost the member nations of the European Union a stunning $150 billion, or the equivalent of the union’s annual budget.”

“Everywhere there are massive economic and financial flows,” said Sonia Alfano, “there is attraction for organized crime.”

(Filed by Kay B. Day/Feb. 7, 2014)

About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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