ORGANISED criminal gangs in Scotland are eyeing the renewables industry, including windfarms, as a potential way of laundering money, police have said.
The Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) is particularly wary after gangs targeted similar projects abroad.
The agency believes criminals may attempt to use legitimate businesses as a front so they are able to secure large grants that are available in what is a growing industry.
The scam is similar to organised crime securing council contracts, such as taxi accounts and even children’s nurseries. Police have shared intelligence with local authorities in an attempt to stop public money being used to hide the proceeds of crime.
However, Alex Salmond has said that “renewables will be the source of Scotland’s reindustrialisation” and police believe the funding available to those industries will attract crime.
Detective Superintendent Alan Cunningham, of the SCDEA, said: “You have to look at industries that are grant-rich.
“Alex Salmond is talking about some industries in Scotland, and there’s money coming in through grants.”
He added: “I can’t say it’s actually happening, there’s no evidence of that. But what I can say is we know organised criminals are looking to those sites as potential and we know from international experience that they’ve been targeted abroad.
“All I can say is we’ve seen indications that they are examining, looking at those areas.
“They will look at any area where they can conceal wealth.Yes, they can do that in tanning salons but, for the big boys, they want to get in ahead of the game elsewhere.”
And police believe it could only be a matter of time.
“If renewables becomes a big player in the Scottish economy then criminals will try to exploit that, that’s not speculative. That’s from our experience,” Mr Cunningham said.
Advice will be made available to renewables companies to try to keep them out of the clutches of organised crime.
Many Haeburn-Little, of the Scottish Business Crime Centre (SBCC), said: “There are a number of sectors where we know there is already a potential interest in organised crime.
“We will be running a specific campaign to support this SME market, which includes a broad range of events, conferences and a dedicated calendar of communication entitled “make one change” – every month we will focus on one theme, including the renewables market.”
A spokeswoman for Scottish Renewables added: “This reinforces that the renewables industry is very much part of the mainstream economy and is now open to the same kinds of risks as other businesses, such as the threat of organised crime.
“There is no evidence that this is yet a problem, but we will obviously work closely with the SBCC in raising awareness of this issue with our members.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Tackling serious organised crime is a top priority for the Scottish Government and law enforcement agencies. The Scottish Government will continue to work closely with the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and other justice partners to identify and disrupt serious organised crime.”