The Environmentally Friendly Mafia

Published: 10 July 2013

Anna Callaghan


Global warming. Climate change. Clean energy. Sustainability. Those topics have become buzzwords as the global community becomes more concerned with protecting the environment. 

 Save the Earth sounds more like something found scrawled on a poster at a college campus, but there’s a new player in the movement – one that’s unexpected yet completely logical.

It’s the Italian Mafia and they’re going green, so to speak. This interest in the environment is a strategic one, and the green movement is just a new way that the infamous organized crime group is diversifying its operations.  The environmental sector is a quickly emerging market that provides expansion opportunities for criminal syndicates.

The economic crisis has had a big impact on the increase of environmental crime, according to a report released by Europol. In order to survive, companies are compelled to cut costs, which has led to an increase in the illicit trafficking of waste and illegal dumping.

Organized crime groups in Scotland, for example, are allegedly responsible for the rapid growth in illegal landfills.  European Union authorities have issued warnings about the potential for fraud in the exploitation of the electricity and gas markets.

Trafficking waste was identified in the Europol report as an emerging threat along with energy fraud.  The report also noted that organized crime groups such as the Cosa Nostra and Ndrangheta are “already involved in alternative energy (wind and solar) and waste management businesses, which they use to launder profits.”

A Europol report on the Italian Mafia said that Italian organized crime groups have started to become more engaged in “Alternative or Green Energy” markets such as investments in wind energy farms. For the Mafia it is an opportunity to benefit from grants and tax subsidies, effectively “exploiting eco-friendly incentives for their financial gain.” In addition to those added benefits, it is also another opportunity to launder money through legal business structures.

Organized crime is flexible. Drug routes change as they’re discovered and patrolled. The destination for black market organs follows demand. Synthetic drugs stay one step ahead of legal regulations with one tweak of the recipe. Groups diversify their criminal activity and adapt to evolving circumstances.

So it’s no surprise the Italian Mafia is becoming environmentally “friendly.”