01/19/2018, 14.17
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Zhang Naizhong, alleged Chinese mafia boss, arrested yesterday

32 others arrested with him charged with extortion, prostitution, drug trafficking. He had established a quasi-monopoly of the transport of goods to Chinese companies in Europe. Amazement and silence in Prato.

Rome (AsiaNews) - Gambling, prostitution, drugs, but also a monopoly on the transport of Chinese goods throughout Europe: This is the criminal trade network that led yesterday to the arrest of a group of 33 people in Italy, all suspected of mafia activities.

The group was based the city of Prato, home to Italy’s largest Chinese community, but there are also members in other parts of Italy - in Florence, Milan, Padua, Rome - and Paris, in Madrid and in Germany .

According to the police report, the head of the organization is Zhang Naizhong, 48, a resident of Rome, who the investigation shows is capable of weaving relationships of trust with other gangs abroad. Through mafia methods, such as extortion and drug sales, he built the empire to become a quasi-monopoly in the distribution of goods from China to thousands of Chinese companies in Europe.

Among the documents of the investigation is the transcription of a telephone interception in which Zhang tells of having met three collaborators in France, to whom he says that if they want they can also stop working with him. And he is quoted as saying: "I have only told them two things: if you join me you will live; if you go against me, you will die ". "The next day - he adds - at midday, all three came to me and told me that they want to join forces with us".

Among the Chinese and Italian population of Prato there is amazement and a lot of tight lips: somehow everyone suspected there was a mafia, but not such a structured and broad organization.

The investigation, called "China truck", began in 2011, following the clash between two gangs, one from Zhejiang (from which Zhang comes) and one from Fujian. Between 2005 and 2010 there were at least 40 murders caused by this war, until Zhang emerged victorious.

Italian magistrates estimate that the group's assets had a value of several hundred million euros.

On his arrest, the police seized the accounts of at least eight companies, several cars and "some" millions of euros.

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