Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chinese criminal groups in Italy (a report from 2003)

According to Faligot, the substantial growth in power of Chinese criminal groups in Italy during the 1990s corresponds to the growth of Chinese immigration in that period. In 2000 Italian authorities estimated that 50,000 Chinese were living legally in southern Italy, compared with only 18,000 in 1990. The number of illegal residents was not known. Overall, the vast majority of Chinese in Italy are from mainland China; few are from Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau. The regions of Italy with the highest concentration of legal Chinese immigrants are Lombardy, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Tuscany, the Piedmont, Lazio (the province that includes Rome), and Emilia-Romagna. All except Lazio are in the northern part of Italy (north of Rome).
The Public Prosecutor’s Department in Rome identifies one large region of Italy as “dangerously open to organized foreign crime.” That area includes Rome, the wealthy northern urban centers around Turin and Milan, and Tuscany--all of which have large Chinese populations. The concentration in the north offers easy access to the borders of four countries with trafficking routes—Austria, France, Slovenia, and Croatia—as well as access to the “fiscal paradise” money-laundering bank centers in Monaco, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. A second region, comprising the entire Adriatic (east) coast of the country, is a primary staging area for illegal immigrants arriving by sea to move northward in Italy.
According to Italy’s Anti-Mafia Investigative Department (DIA), Chinese criminal groups in Italy are small (between 12 and 50 members), differentiated by their native region, and organized under a single chief according to the traditional triad structure. There is no overarching unity among these groups. However, Chinese groups may cooperate among themselves, and they increasingly cooperate with other ethnic criminal groups in a variety of activities. The Ji Rong Lin group of Rome is an example of a multinational group with Italian ties. Under a chief who resides in Paris, the group is active in prostitution, gambling, trafficking in people, extortion, and theft in Italy, Austria, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. In Rome, the group’s document forgery operations are especially notable, having established “a veritable underground passport factory in the Bastoncini dioro, a Roman restaurant.”
As in other European countries, one of Chinese organized crime’s major activities is trafficking in people, which increased substantially in the 1990s. As of 1995, illegal immigrants arrived in Italy by several overland and water routes. The arrival points in Italy are Rome, Brindisi, Trieste, Milan, and Sicily. Several routes pass through Eastern Europe (some combination of Romania, Hungary, Albania, the Czech Republic, and Yugoslavia), and several pass through West European countries (Austria, France, Germany, or Malta) before reaching Italy. Illegal migrants cross the Strait of Otranto from Albanian ports to the Italian port of Brindisi, from where they move north into Tuscany and Lombardy. This route requires cooperation with both Albanian and Italian criminal groups. Other migrants pass from northern China into the Maritime (Primor’ye) Territory of Russia, then to Moscow. In Moscow they buy Italian visas for US$10,000 to US$15,000 per visa, “legalizing” their entry into Italy. Local criminals in northern Italy are known to have established cooperative people-trafficking ventures with Chinese criminal groups.
In late 2002, the Italian Anti-Mafia Investigative Directorate (DIA) reported that the powerful Neapolitan Camorra mafia organization has established cooperative agreements with Chinese groups seeking to gain a foothold in the Naples market for counterfeit goods, from which Chinese might expand into other criminal activities in that region. Reportedly, Chinese groups also have an accord with the Italian mafia in Rome, by which the former engage only in illegal migrants, leaving the Italians with narcotics and arms trafficking.
Italy is home to several very active groups that fall under the general term “Black Society,” which is based in Milan and Rome and also has member groups in France, Spain, and the United States. Among the Chinese groups in Italy are two Milan groups, the Yu Hu and the Da Huang, which dominate that city’s racketeering and participate in various economic crimes. A second branch, made up of immigrants from Qingtian (Zhejiang Province), is the dominant Chinese group in Rome. The third branch, from Wenzhou (Zhejiang Province) is known for its brutal extortion of protection money from the Chinese community, which has resulted in some collaboration with the DIA.
Besides human trafficking, the second most common crime is counterfeiting documents such as residence permits, driving licenses, and passports, a craft in which criminal groups have become very expert. In the 1990s, Italian authorities also attributed substantial illegal gambling activity to Chinese groups. Chinese groups also have gained a share of the trade in counterfeit cigarettes, which Albanian groups smuggle into southern Italy. Chinese mafia groups from Fujian Province (southeastern China) are active in trafficking counterfeit designer clothing into Italy through Genoa. Such activity relies on support from the non-criminal émigré community from Fujian. The DIA also has documented Chinese participation in prostitution, kidnapping, and robbery.

A Report Prepared by the Federal Research Division, Library of Congress under an Interagency Agreement with the Crime and Narcotics Center, Directorate of Central Intelligence. April 2003


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