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
0

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.


What’s next for Italy as populists take charge?

Updated 14 min 44 sec ago
0

What’s next for Italy as populists take charge?

  • Italy's proposed coalition mix of far-right, anti-establishment and euro-skeptic policies.
  • Both Di Maio and Salvini insist that they want to create a coalition that can last the full five-year mandate and implement their program.

ROME: A mix of far-right, anti-establishment and euro-skeptic policies, was promised by Italy’s proposed coalition government, leading the international community to wonder what the future holds for the eurozone’s third largest economy.
Here are answers to five pressing questions as the League and Five Star Movement (M5S) prepare to take charge.
Despite outspoken criticism of the European Union from both parties, the final version of the M5S-League government program does not mention a unilateral exit from the eurozone.
M5S abandoned their idea of a referendum on the euro and while the League has called the currency “a failed economic and social experiment,” the party has proposed a series of reforms and an eventual coordinated group exit along with a number of other countries in the long term.
M5S hold more clout in the new coalition having won almost 33 percent in March’s election, compared to the League’s 17 percent, even if League leader Matteo Salvini claims to represent the 37 percent who voted for his rightwing coalition.
While Salvini is the undisputed top dog of the League, the shadow of M5S founder Beppe Grillo, an outspoken former comedian, still looms large over the party led by Luigi Di Maio.
A question mark also hangs over the fate of flamboyant former premier Silvio Berlusconi. Part of the rightwing alliance with Salvini, Berlusconi begrudgingly gave the green light for the League and M5s to make a deal without his Forza Italia party.
The aging media tycoon, however, disapproves of the new government program and, after a recent court ruling overturned a ban on him holding public office, could once again be able to exert influence from inside parliament — if a member of his party offers up their seat.
Never afraid of a long shot, Berlusconi has also offered himself up as a potential future premier.
Both Di Maio and Salvini insist that they want to create a coalition that can last the full five-year mandate and implement their program.
Their parties, however, only have a wafer-thin six vote majority in the Senate, which holds the same power as that of the Chamber of Deputies, where they have a 32-vote majority.
The two parties will have to hold onto their MPs, particularly those who view the new alliance with skepticism, in order to go the distance.
A tumultuous campaign, inconclusive elections and a prolonged period of political deadlock meant that financial markets were already nervous, especially faced with the possibility of a return to the polls.
So the prospect of a M5S-League accord was initially met with some relief — until the coalition revealed their government program.
In response to the document’s costly financial measures and euroskeptic tone, key financial indicators pointed to decreasing investor confidence in Italy.
The difference in yield between Italian and German 10-year government bonds has gained 40 points in less than a week, increasing to 170 points.
Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella has the power to veto ministers and reject any law deemed financially non-viable for the country.
He is also the guarantor of Italy’s international commitments and will keep a close eye on any move to modify the country’s role on the world stage, especially given Salvini’s scathing comments about the EU and praise for Russian leader Vladimir Putin.