Italy breaks up Chinese crime ring involved in drugs, prostitution

Police officers inspect a truck's load during an operation aiming to break up a Chinese transport mafia, in Prato, Italy, Thursday. (AP)
Updated 18 January 2018
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Italy breaks up Chinese crime ring involved in drugs, prostitution

FLORENCE: Italy ordered the arrest of 33 people on Thursday on suspicion of running a Chinese mafia group involved in gambling, prostitution, and drugs and which dominated the transport of Chinese goods across Europe.
The group’s base was in Prato, near Florence, a hub for the textile industry where many factories are owned and run by Chinese, police said in a statement.
But the network had members in other parts of Italy and across Europe, with arrests sought in Rome, Milan, Padua, Paris, Madrid and Neuss, Germany, the statement said. Police did not say how many had been arrested so far.
They are accused of being members of a mafia organization and other crimes.
The suspected boss, Zhang Nai Zhong, was based in Rome. He used profit from illegal activities to build a massive transport company that dominated the trucking of goods for thousands of Chinese companies, police said.
Zhong had won a near-monopoly in distribution through threats and violence against Chinese company owners, anti-mafia prosecutors said. The investigation, called “China Truck,” began in 2011.
The operation broke up “a dangerous organization that had used force to take control of trucking, and was financed by its illegal activities,” Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said in a statement.
Italy has a long history of home-grown organized crime, including the Sicilian Mafia and the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta, but immigration to Europe has opened the way for foreign crime groups to take root, including the Nigerian and Chinese mafias.
“Being able to shed light on mafia character of this group is almost incredible,” Federico Cafiero De Raho, Italy’s chief anti-mafia prosecutor, told a news conference. “It’s quite unusual to be able to identify a complex Chinese mafia organization.”
Investigators said Zhong emerged the winner of a conflict between rival Chinese gangs in which some 40 people were thought to have been murdered between 2005-2010. They estimated the group’s business activities were worth “hundreds of millions of euros.”
Apart from the arrests, prosecutors seized eight companies and an equal number of vehicles and “a few” millions of euros.


Blasts heard in Maiduguri, northeast of Nigeria, before polls open

Updated 23 February 2019
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Blasts heard in Maiduguri, northeast of Nigeria, before polls open

  • The city is the birthplace of Boko Haram Islamists
  • Boko Haram has warned it will disrupt the elections

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria: A series of explosions was heard in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Saturday, shortly before the opening of polls in presidential and parliamentary elections.

Multiple blasts were heard at about 6A.M. (0500 GMT), locals said. There was no immediate indication of the cause.

But the city is the birthplace of Boko Haram Islamists and has been repeatedly attacked during their nearly 10-year insurgency that has devastated the remote region.

Polls open at 0700 GMT, with President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general who has vowed to defeat the jihadists, seeking a second term.

Boko Haram has warned it will disrupt the elections.

One resident in the Gomari neighborhood of Maiduguri said: “I heard several explosions coming from the Bulumkutu area this morning but it’s unclear what is happening.

“There have been suspicions that it was an attack by Boko Haram but we don’t know yet.”

He added: “Late yesterday (Friday), some gunmen went into the house of a man in Gomari and shot him dead. We still don’t know the motive.”

Two other residents gave a similar account.

The early morning explosions in Maiduguri come after a Boko Haram attack late on Friday on Zabarmari village, some 10 kilometers outside Maiduguri.

The attack forced residents to flee into the city.