Spanish police have cracked down on a Chinese crime ring suspected of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars gained from evading duties on imported goods from China.
At the culmination of the two-year police investigation, over 80 people were arrested in the sting operation, including art dealer and suspected Chinese mafia boss Gao Ping, Jose Borras, a city council member in the Madrid suburb of Fuenlabrada, and Spanish adult film star Nacho Vidal.
The criminal scheme involved shipping cheap goods from China to Spain, declaring customs on only a small portion of them, and then laundering the profits from sales through front companies such as karaoke bars and restaurants. The crime ring is also suspected of engaging in sex trafficking and extortion.
Borras is accused of taking bribes in exchange for issuing business licenses and Vidal is accused of helping to launder money through his production company.
The crime ring allegedly laundered $200 million annually over the past several years, according to National Police Corps chief Ignacio Cosido.
It is not clear whether the crime ring was based in Spain or had ties with criminal organizations based in China.
Chinese gangs have also infiltrated Italy.
In the summer of 2010, Italian police arrested 24 people in connection with a multi-billion euro money-laundering operation. Since as early as 2006, Chinese mobsters in Italy had sent almost €3 billion to China from proceeds of prostitution, tax evasion, the sale of counterfeit goods, the exploitation of illegal immigrants, and other crimes, mainly in Tuscany, which has a large Chinese population.
The Chinese criminal society known as the Triads, often depicted in Hong Kong action flicks and crime dramas, are a set of criminal organizations, many with an international reach, particularly in places with large Chinese populations such as the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Singapore, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
While the Triads have a long history dating back centuries as secret societies, criminal gangs known as Tongs, literally “social clubs” in Cantonese, have also arisen separately among Chinese immigrant populations prior to the incursion of the Triads.
With the extension of influence of the Triads internationally, Tongs have increasingly become local enforcers for the more powerful syndicates, much like Mexican-American street gangs have come under the control Mexico’s drug cartels.
The international nature of the suspected mob boss Gao Ping’s criminal operations suggest involvement of the Triads, but the investigation has only uncovered the extent of the gang’s activities in Spain, and may not be able to pursue it further than that.
To contact the editor, e-mail: