The Diaspora of any country is supposed to be its flag bearer in foreign land. They are representative of a particular country’s ethos, culture and moral values. Their behavior is expected to be above board at all times. But not all countries are fortunate to have an honest and upright Diaspora doing their country proud. One such country is China whose nationals abroad have brought shame for the country. They have often been mired in controversies like hacking, software piracy, physical assault, financial malpractices etc.
In a recent case of financial fraud committed by Chinese nationals, it is being reported that 33 people, mostly Chinese nationals, have been arrested by Italy’s specialized agency on charges of large-scale money laundering in Italy with several illegal centers spread over various cities. These centers are primarily located in the Esquilino quarter of Rome and Tor Bella Monaca. Apprehended Chinese nationals have been accused of laundering money of Italian drug cartels. The Italian agency is investigating the charges that include money laundering, extortion, detention of illegal weapons and drug trade. The system is locally known as “flying money” (Fei Ch’ien). The Chinese part was led by Wen Kui Zheng and the Italian part by two high level criminal groups working together: one headed by Antonio Gala e Fabrizio Capogna, the other by Federico Latini.
The system worked with Chinese brokers in Esquilino receiving the money. Chinese importers of goods and shops used this system to pay partially for the import of Chinese goods from the mainland China. Money to be laundered would be given to a broker who would settle with a Chinese broker nominally. Any additional money was taken by money mules by air (hence flying money). This system was very much connected with the secret Chinese banks exposed by Italian financial police a few months ago in the city of Florence and showed intrinsic involvement of the Chinese traders with the Italian mafia. The laundered money was then deposited in accounts in Italy (as letters of credit or transfers), Hong Kong, Dubai and other offshore capitals. This is not the first time that such nexus has been unearthed. A few years ago, over 100 people were arrested in Reggio Emilia for a similar laundering operation, which at that time was conducted differently (through gambling websites and using western union, when there were much higher limits for EU transfers). Besides Chinese nationals, Pakistani traders in Italy are also alleged to be involved in this network. For over 20 years, Pakistani owned food stores, phone shops were considered as coordination points for drug distribution in Italy. Money eventually was laundered through restaurants, internet points etc. With growing presence of Chinese nationals and expansion of their businesses, they have opened illegal coordination centers aided by Pakistan tradesmen.
The Italian government in particular and the European Union as a whole must take a strong view of the illegal activities of Chinese and Pakistan nationals. They must carry out a comprehensive review to identify the legal status of their stay in the country. Immigration
systems need to be strengthened to prevent the entry of uncouth nationals form these countries.