'Deep infiltration' by Mafia in Italy's renewables industry

They'll make you an offer you can't refuse -- as long as the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.

Narcotics? Old news.

The latest business opportunity for an Italian mafioso is far cleaner: renewable energy.

That's according to a surprising report in yesterday's Washington Post, in which reporter Anthony Faiola details la Cosa Nostra's involvement in Italy's booming energy sector.

"For the love of our sons, renewable energy is important," wiretapped businessman Angelo Salvatore reportedly said to 79-year-old Gimbellina family crime boss Vincenzo Funari. "It's a business we can live on."

Wiretapped, of course, because Italian law enforcement conducted a sweep across Sicily last month "revealing years of deep infiltration into the renewable energy sector by Italy’s rapidly modernizing crime families," Faiola reports.

Upon further consideration, it's not a surprise. Italy's wind and solar energy sectors were booming before they hit the skids during the recent global economic downturn, prompted by large government incentives, to the tune of billions of euros.

You can guess what happened next: in Italy, Spain and elsewhere, corruption followed. Nowhere more apparent than in Sicily, where several Italian crime families hold court.

"Roughly a third of the island’s 30 wind farms -- along with several solar power plants -- have been seized by authorities," Faiola reports, with an additional $2 billion in assets frozen.

As Italy tries to rebound from its extended and extensive economic turmoil, such revelations won't help attract the investment the nation needs to get back on its feet. For economic success, you might say Italy has to give corruption the boot.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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