Italian finance police have arrested two prominent businessmen — including one with ties to a former investor in the Cape Wind project in Nantucket — in the wind energy sector on charges of fraud. Arrested were Oreste Vigorito, head of the IVPC energy company and president of Italy’s National Association of Wind Energy, and Vito Nicastri, a Sicilian business associate, according to the Financial Times.
Anti-mafia prosecutors in Sicily also have launched a parallel investigation, reports the Financial Times.
Local officials, Mafia crime gangs and entrepreneurs have been tied together in schemes for fixing permits for wind farms that were constructed with local subsidies, then sold to foreign firms, according to an earlier Financial Times article.
In the most recent arrests, according to the European Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, Oreste Vigorito has ties to Brian Caffyn, a former investor in the Cape Wind project, which has been criticized as a poor investment for taxpayers, reports Dakota Voice.
Vigorito once owned IVPC with Brian Caffyn, founder of Cape Wind and First Wind, according to the Boston Herald. Caffyn sold his interest in Cape Wind in 2002 and sold his interest in IVPC in 2005. Vigorito has never had any involvement in Cape Wind, according to Mark Rodgers, Communications Director for the Cape Wind project.
The Herald reports that Caffyn was surprised to learn of Vigorito’s arrest:
“I read about it in the papers, and I was very surprised,” Brian Caffyn said from Hong Kong, where he is now building wind-energy farms in China and the Philippines.
“I know of no fraud with (former partners) Oreste (Vigorito) and IVPC,” said Caffyn, a Cape Cod native and Babson College graduate.
The “Gone with the Wind” sting operation, started in 2007, netted 11 others who were charged but were not arrested. Italian police told Financial Times that the fraud charges are related to obtaining millions of dollars in public subsidies to construct wind farms that never worked. Police confiscated seven wind farms with 185 turbines in Sicily linked to IVPC, according to the article.
The anti-fraud team also is investigating IVPC’s sales of wind farms to foreign companies, and already has sent requests for documentation to five companies located in the Netherlands and Spain, as well as IVPC’s Italian affiliates in Ireland and the UK, according to the article.
Fraud appears to be an emerging problem in the nascent clean energy sector. Most recently, two clean energy auditors — SGS UK and DNV — were accused of not properly auditing projects in carbon trading markets.
Meanwhile, the UK is dealing with carbon trading credit scams that could cost millions of dollars. In Australia, to prevent bogus carbon offset schemes, federal police agents can now enter company premises and request paperwork to monitor their emissions.