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Monday, March 28, 2011
Hawaii Wind Developer tied to Largest-ever asset seizure by anti-Mafia police
By Andrew Walden @ 1:05 AM :: 17145 Views :: Energy

by Andrew Walden

Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind stood comfortably with Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie, Rep Mazie Hirono, and HECO CEO Dick Rosenblum at the grand opening of the Kahuku Wind energy project on Oahu’s North Shore Thursday.   As he should. 

First Wind–formerly known as UPC Wind--got its start in wind energy by launching Italy’s IVPC--a company now subject to a record breaking asset seizure by Italian police.  The Financial Times September 14, 2010 explains:

Italian anti-mafia police have made their largest seizure of assets as part of an investigation into windfarm contracts in Sicily. Officers confiscated property and accounts valued at €1.5bn belonging to a businessman suspected of having links with the mafia.

Roberto Maroni, interior minister, on Tuesday accused the businessman – identified by police as Vito Nicastri and known as the island’s “lord of the winds” – of being close to a fugitive mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro.

General Antonio Mirone, of the anti-mafia police, said the seized assets included 43 companies – some with foreign participation and mostly in the solar and windpower sector – as well as about 100 plots of land, villas and warehouses, luxury cars and a catamaran. More than 60 bank accounts were frozen.

Until his arrest last November, Mr Nicastri, based in the inland hill town of Alcamo, was Sicily’s largest developer of windfarms, arranging purchases of land, financing and official permits. Some projects were sold through intermediaries to foreign renewable energy companies attracted to Italy by generous subsidy schemes….

The renewable energy sector is under scrutiny across much of southern Italy. Some windfarms, built with official subsidies, have never functioned….

Mr Nicastri sold most of his windfarm projects to IVPC, a company near Naples run by Oreste Vigorito, also president of Italy’s windpower association. Mr Vigorito was also arrested last November on suspicion of fraud and later released. He denied wrongdoing.

Of course the folks who started IVPC know nothing about any of this.  Reacting to an earlier round of arrests, First Wind founder Brian Caffyn told the November 15, 2009 Boston Herald: “I read about it in the papers, and I was very surprised.”

Will Hawaii’s windfarms actually work?  The “Clipper Liberty” wind turbines installed at Kahuku are made by a company founded by a former Director of Enron Wind.  Clipper Liberty Vice President of Engineering is also an Enron Wind veteran.

Gaynor and Caffyn were once much more public about their corporate ties to Vigorito’s IVPC.  First Wind was originally known as UPC.  The UPC Solar website touts “Mr. Caffyn personally oversaw the establishment and construction of the largest wind energy company in Italy — Italian Vento Power Corporation.”

IVPC’s english-language website states:  “The Group came to light in 1993 from an idea of Oreste Vigorito who formed the company I.V.P.C. S.r.l. on behalf of UPC, an American company which operates in the wind sector in California.”  (Emphasis added.)

The UPC Solar website explains: “UPC’s earliest wind farm developments were built in 1995 in Italy. At the time UPC sold IVPC, its Italian wind business, in 2005, it had built approximately 650MW of capacity representing over 50% of the total installed Italian wind capacity.”

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute News Summer, 2005 reports on the activities of WPI alumnus Gaynor: 

"...As president and CEO of UPC Wind Management, located in Newton, Mass., Gaynor was tapped to bring the success of the parent company, UPC Group, to North America. In Europe and North Africa, UPC affiliates—including Italian Vento Power Corporation—have raised over $900 million in financing and installed some 900 utility-scale wind turbine generators (WTGs), with a total capacity of more than 635 megawatts. UPC subsidiary companies, positioned across the United States and in Toronto, are currently pursing some 2,000 megawatts in projects from Maine to Maui..."

In March, Gaynor secured financing for a $70 million project on the island of Maui. [The project is a joint venture with Makani Nui Associates, which owns 49 percent.] The 30-megawatt wind farm at Kaheawa Pastures will be Hawaii’s first utility-scale project to be put into service since the 1980s. Plans call for 20 towers, 180 feet tall, with 1.5-megawatt General Electric turbines. Construction is expected to begin this summer, and the project should be completed by the first quarter of 2006. When operational, the wind farm will supply up to 9 percent of demand to customers of Maui Electric Company.

The Kaheawa Pastures site is situated on state conservation land, between Ma’aleaea and Olowalu, at elevations ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 feet.

Makani Nui is also a partner in the Kahuku Wind project.

Business Week reports that Caffyn is a Director or Partner in dozens of Limited Liability Corporations tied to wind energy projects.  These include Hawaii’s Kaheawa Wind Power, LLC, Kaheawa Wind Power II, LLC, Hawaii Wind Construction, LLC, and UPC Hawaii Wind O&M. 

Caffyn is also listed as a Director or Partner of Italian Vento Power Corporation (IVPC), Srl, IVPC 4, Srl. (Italian Vento Power Corporation), IVPC 6, Srl, IVPC 2000, Srl., IVPC Energy B.V., IVPC Energy 3 B.V., IVPC Energy 4 B.V., IVPC Energy 5, B.V., IVPC Energy 6, B.V., IVPC Energy 7, B.V., IVPC Gestione, Srl, IVPC Management, Srl, IVPC Management 2, Srl and IVPC Marche, Srl. Mr. Caffyn served as Director or Partner of IVPC Marche 2, Srl., IVPC Puglia, Srl, IVPC Service, Srl, IVPC Service 2, Srl, IVPC Service 3, Srl, IVPC Service 4, Srl, IVPC Service 5, Srl, IVPC Service 6, Srl, IVPC Sicilia, Srl., IVPC Sicilia 2, Srl., IVPC Sicilia 3, Srl., IVPC Sicilia 4, Srl., IVPC Sicilia 5, Srl., IVPC Sicilia 6, Srl., IVPC Umbria, Srl., IVPC Wind, Srl.

The UK Independent September 16, 2010 reports:

After decades of drug-running, extortion and prostitution, the Mafia appears to have found a rather more ecological way of laundering their money: green power.

And if the assets of the Italian police's latest target are any indication, the Mafia is embracing the renewable energy business with an enthusiasm that would make Al Gore look like a dilettante. The surprising revelation of organised crime's new green streak came as Italian police said yesterday they had made the largest recorded seizure of mob assets – worth €1.5bn (£1.25bn) ($2.1bn US) – from the Mafia-linked Sicilian businessman Vito Nicastri, who had vast holdings in alternative energy concerns, including wind farms.

Organised crime in Italy has previously been notorious for trading in environmental destruction – principally earning billions of euros by illegally dumping toxic waste. But most of the newly seized assets are in the form of land, property and bank accounts in Sicily, the home of Cosa Nostra, and in the neighbouring region of Calabria, the base of the rival 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate.

So naturally, First Wind is very comfortable with Hawaii politicians and business leaders. 

---30---

THE FUTURE: Wind Energy's Ghosts

The list First Wind owned companies (some inactive) registered in Hawaii includes the following:

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