Italian police seize €1.3b in assets from mafia-connected energy entrepreneur
Anti-mafia agency seizes assets of Sicilian renewable energy mogul worth €1.3b
Italian police have seized assets worth €1.3 billion (HK$13 billion) from a Sicilian renewable energy developer in the biggest-ever seizure of mafia-linked wealth.
The assets, including 43 wind and solar energy companies, 98 properties and 66 bank accounts, belonged to Vito Nicastri, a 57-year-old businessman dubbed the "Lord of the Wind" for his prominent role in the industry.
"This is a sector in which money can easily be laundered," said Arturo de Felice, head of Italy's anti-mafia agency.
The anti-mafia agency said in a statement on Wednesday that it was the biggest ever seizure of mafia-linked assets.
The assets had been frozen in 2010 and Nicastri is on probation under orders not to leave his town of Alcamo in western Sicily during the investigation.
Nicastri had "numerous and high-level contacts with mafia figures", the anti-mafia agency said, adding that this had been confirmed by messages found during the arrest of two local mafia bosses.
The businessman was also linked to Matteo Messina Denaro, a fugitive who is considered the godfather of the Sicilian mafia, the statement said.
The seizure "impacts in a significant way on the economic power of Matteo Messina Denaro, who is considered the lord of that land", it added.
De Felice said the seizure "will definitely make life more difficult" for Messina Denaro.
He said revenue from the companies and properties seized would now be going to the state.
Since the anti-mafia agency was created in 1991, it has arrested 10,107 people and seized assets worth €6 billion, he said.
Italy's renewable-energy sector has been heavily infiltrated by the mafia because of once-generous state subsidies and lax controls, as well as the availability of land in areas of southern Italy with a strong mafia presence.