Italy breaks up Chinese mafia running rackets across Europe

Italian police on Thursday arrested 33 suspected members of a Chinese mafia in a sting codenamed ‘China truck’ that revealed how the violent criminal group has been monopolising transport of goods worth millions of euros by road from Chinatowns across Italy on to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries, La Repubblica newspaper reported.

The assets of eight companies were seized and some 60 current bank accounts involving millions of dollars were frozen on Thursday.

Personnel of the Central Operations Service and the mobile teams of Prato, Rome, Florence, Milan, Padua and Pisa were involved in Thursday’s operation.

Federal Interior Minister Marco Minniti said he is grateful to the state police who worked in coordination with the judiciary to expose and arrest the mafia.

Police departments of other European countries too coordinated in the investigations which began in 2011 in the city of Prato in Tuscany which has a large Chinese community working mainly in the textile industry.

Most of the arrested suspects are from Prato which police described as the heart of the mafia’s criminal activity.

They originally hail from China’s Zhejiang and Fujian regions. Some of them are already serving jail sentence for other crimes — two of them each in France and China.

Besides controlling the movement of goods within and outside Italy, the mafia was running extortion, gambling, prostitution and drugs rackets, top anti-mafia prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho told reporters in Florence on Thursday.

The mafia used the money earned from these criminal activities to take over transportation companies in Italy, France, Spain and Germany.

Police identified the mafia boss as Zhang Naizhong, 57, a resident of Rome known among his subordinates as the ‘black man’.

On Wednesday, policemen followed him in plainclothes as he visited companies in Macrolotto di Prato, kept changing cars and also visited restaurants to meet people who bowed respectfully before him. Among them was a young woman referred to as his lover. Police seized 30,000 euros in cash when they raided his home on Thursday.

Zhang became mafia boss during the 2000s after restoring ‘peace’ among criminals in Prato following a gang war which left several of them dead.

Cafiero said being able to identify a complex Chinese mafia is something exceptional and the busting of the Chinese mafia confirmed that foreign criminals are also “polluting” the country.