In 2007, arsonists set fire to one of his wind farms, causing $4 million in damage. In 2009, the Terrasi crime family attempted to block one of his company’s new wind farms by claiming ownership rights to the land, eventually prompting 14 arrests and forcing Moncada and his family into two years of police protection.
The difficulty of doing business in Sicily eventually led his company to focus overseas, with the company moving to invest in renewables in the United States, South America and North Africa.
“It’s not only the criminal infiltration but the corrupt bureaucracy that makes it difficult to do business here,” Moncada said.
‘We lost a vital opportunity’
Indeed, the mafia has targeted legitimate businesses in Sicily beyond renewable energy, with a 2008 probe revealing the island’s largest supermarket chain to be a front for mafia cash. Sicily’s former governor Raffaele Lombardo stepped down last July after being charged with mafia ties. His predecessor, Salvatore “Toto” Cuffaro, is serving a seven-year jail sentence after being convicted on organized crime charges.
Citing its poor finances and a mountain of debt, the Italian government is now curbing new subsidies for renewable energies. A nationwide program has also been rolled out requiring developers to sign affidavits stating they have no links to organized crime.
In Sicily, where a new anti-
mafia government came to power in November, construction of most new renewable projects has been stopped. The new government is seeking ways to ensure that the mafia is rooted out of the industry before allowing fresh projects to go forward.
“Criminal organizations were allowed to do business” in the renewables sector, said Nicolo Marino, Sicily’s new energy minister. “We lost a vital opportunity for development, and the region lost the chance to profit from it.”
Stefano Pitrelli in Rome and Eliza Mackintosh in London contributed to this report.