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Atti del 1° Seminario Europeo "Falcon One" sulla Criminalità Organizzata Roma,
26 - 27 - 28 aprile 1995
Abbonamento Stampa Sommario
La mafia cinese Domenico Di Petrillo, Colonnello CC. - Dirigente Centro Operativo - D.I.A.
The D.I.A. has recently performed an in-depth analysis into the Chinese question. It is an extremely delicate and topical subject. Its criminal potential has not yet been fully determined.
In the belief that a deregulation of the investigative attention on endemic crime could determine the growth of Chinese crime it has been decided to face the phenomenon currently spreading in Italy now, but already well established in the rest of Europe and in the world.
It is therefore necessary to create rules and investigative methods specifically targeted to this very challenging phenomenon. The difficulty arises from a "wall of silence" which is almost impossible to break and from the presence of different interests, regional cultures, and dialects which can easily mislead the investigator.
Understanding the Chinese question is essential so as to adopt "therapies" able to prevent the development of the bad part of a community of immigrants made up in its majority by of law-abiding workers.
The analysis of Chinese crime stems from one consideration: wherever a Chinese community settles there is inevitably a criminal element exploiting the honest, hard-working immigrants.
The prime interest of the Chinese Mafia in Italy seems to be in businesses, especially in restaurants. Anyhow Chinese people are also interested in other types of activities such as leather good stores, tailor shops, fast-food and lastly street-vendors selling oriental objects. They work an absurd number of hours (about 18 hours per day) and often in inadequate hygienic conditions.
The Chinese from the People's Republic of China live practically segregated as in the era of the first industrial revolution, in a forced symbiosis with machinery and manufactured goods.

The involvement of Chinese criminal groups in international drug-trafficking
Chinese criminal groups are heavily involved in the drug- trafficking, especially in that of opiates.
The activities of producers and traffickers of opiates are favoured by territorial and historic conditions both for production and all the other aspects of the trade.
The opium poppy grows extremely well in a strip of land known as "The Opium Crescent" which is between Asia and the Middle East.
A portion of the Yunnan region is in the so-colled "Golden Triangle" and further China's borders coincide with half of the "Opium Golden Crescent" ‘s northern borders.
However, besides this geographic "peculiarity" there are precise historic reasons for the"Triads' " influence on the trafficking of drugs coming from the "Golden Triangle".
The "Golden Triangle" is an area which includes territories under the sovereignty of many nations: in the west Burma (which is now called Myanmar), in the north some zones of the Chinese province of Yunnan, in the east Laos and Thailand, and in the south still Thailand and Burma.
The whole area covers more than 240,000 hectares where the opium poppy is traditionally intensely cultivated.
That part of Burma, in particular, is controlled by the Shan ethnic group, a separatist group who is for language and traditions closer to the Thais. The group's main activity is the cultivation of opium.
The leaders of these forces are tied at all levels to secret Chinese societies. Furthermore, Thailand has a very large Chinese community and therefore is one of the places where most drug intermediations take place.
A large community of Chinese immigrants lives in Bangkok and it represents a recruitment "reservoir" for criminal organisations.
Bangkok is also one of the most significant intersections for heroin runners heading towards Europe and North America (just in 1992, 350 kgs of heroin were seized at the city airport).
The situation of the "Golden Triangle" therefore demonstrates how the production and the trafficking of large drug consignments coming from that area are solidly under the control of Chinese individuals close to the "Triads".
For the "Triads" Hong Kong is a centre of interest where huge drug consignments heading towards the European and Western markets flow.
To confirm this central role played by the Chinese "Triads" in drug-trafficking, it should be underlined that large drug consignments coming from the "Golden Triangle" usually follow land routes passing through China: across the Chinese provinces of Yunnam and Guangxi, the consignments arrive in the Guangdong area, which has special economic conditions, and in particular in the city of Canton (or Guangzhou). From here the drugs are then sent to Hong Kong.
The routes specifically used by Chinese traffickers for clandestine immigration, as well as drugs, have been found to be numerous.
It is important to point out that many of these routes begin in cities like Shanghai or Fuzhou, located in the south-eastern provinces, adjacent to the Zhejiang. The vast majority of Chinese immigrants (clandestine and regular) who form the Italian community come from this same area.
Many of the journey include stop-overs in European cities like Frankfurt, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Zurich, Moscow, and Istanbul.
Investigations by national and European police forces have uncoverd other routes followed by the traffickers or by clandestine workers touching Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, and other Eastern Euopean countries interested in Chinese immigration,.
What I want to underline is the leading role that Chinese criminal organisations play in world drug-trafficking.
I tried to illustrate that Chinese people or people of Chinese origin are strategically located abroad with respect to the activity of cultivation, intermediation and transport of drugs from the production to the consumption areas all over the world.
As far as our nation is concerned, the "smuggling" of clandestine workforce could represent the "Trojan Horse" through which the "Triads" with the complicity of Italian criminal associations might invade the Italian drug market, replacing partially o totally the Turks.

The Chinese criminal phenomenon in Europe and its dimensions in Italy
Chinese organised crime has been present in Europe for a long time using some important cities as stop-over and/or as final destinations for large consignments of drugs and also for clandestine immigration.
It should be underlined that the trafficking of clandestine immigrants cannot be considered of secondary importance with respect to the drug trade, or to other crimes against individuals and property.
The "Triads" earn vast amounts of money taking advantage of the desperation and the desire for achievement of the Chinese who hope to find fortune abroad. In this manner, the "Triads" can rely on a continuous supply of criminal and cheap labour.
It has been ascertained that Chinese organised crime uses the traffic of immigrants to introduce into a certain area people aware that they will have to commit any kind of crime for the organisations in order to pay for their journey.
Clandestine immigration represents, without any doubt, the core of all the activities it is the means through which a strict control of all business activities is accomplished.
In our country, Chinese crime has already for some time come to the attention of the police forces and of the public opinion.
Intimidatory actions against Chinese businessmen and simple immigrants show on the one hand the tendency of the criminals to act as a group, and on the other the conditions of subjection of the immigrant community to the criminals' despotism, a typical behaviour of "Mafia" groups.
The traffic of clandestine immigrants seems to be the main activity to introduce immigrants into productive activities in our country and for their transit towards Europe or North America.
In Italy, as in other countries, a strong influence on the immigrant community is exercised by people for the Far East, who have taken up European citizenships and by their families.
Criminal police investigations in Italy and abroad have frequently shown that important roles in the management of the most profitable illegal traffics are played by Chinese citizens or by Chinese speaking people who came to Europe a while ago and who now possess a new citizenship.
It is worth underlying that we are dealing with a community of 15,000 official presences, in real terms it can vary by 1/3 to 3/5 more when we consider illegal immigrants. (Graph 1)
In order to read the Chinese presence correctly, the number of expired residence permits must be subtracted from the total.
The expired permits, however, allow a better interpretation of the global reality of the Chinese immigration in Italy; this, above all, in consideration of the fact that the permits are often used to allow clandestine immigrants to enter our nation.
The traffic of clandestine immigrants is an "industry".
Clandestine immigrants, as investigations have shown, pay between 20 and 30 million liras to come from China to Italy.
Even larger sums are paid to enable them to reach the U.S. or Canada.
Once in Italy, they are forced to work 10, 12, or even 18 hours per day, for two or three years, at no cost for the employers.
When the illegal immigrant arrives in Italy is therefore heavily in debt with the organisation or with his/her family who has remained in China and has paid in advance for the journey.
In this condition, especially the younger immigrants can become easy prey to those who have interests in making them commit all types of crimes.
In Italy, the Chinese community is made up of citizens from the People's Republic of China.
The community of individuals from Nationalist China (Taiwan) is about twenty times smaller, while the communities from Hong Kong and Macao are extremely small.
As far as the distribution of the residence permits on the national territory is concerned, obviously excluding the illegal ones, we have noticed that it follows the logic determined in their original country. (Graph 2)

The regions where the majority of residence permits are issued to citizens of the People's Republic of China are respectively: Lombardia, Lazio, Toscana, Emilia-Romagna, Piemonte, and Veneto.
The situation is different if we look at the total related data for valid residence permits. This data is obtained by subtracting from all the permits issued, the number of those expired. (Graph 3)
The difference between Lombardia and Piemonte and the other regions lessens.
Comparing then the number of declarations of valid permits to the consistency of the Italian population, the largest concentration of immigrants from the People's Republic of China is registered in Toscana, followed by Lazio, whose data is a bit higher than Lombardia; then follow Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia Romagna, and Piemonte. (Graph 4)
Minimal is instead the presence in the southern regions of the peninsula and in the Italian islands.
It is worth noticing at this point that the concentration of the immigrants is a risk factor to be carefully considered.
The concentration of immigrants is determined by a series of interrelated causes. First of all the the original settlements, their growth around family groups; a local economy allowing the Chinese to better operate in consideration of their work traditions; and the difficulties experienced by the institutions in evaluating a phenomenon.
The routes followed to reach Italy can vary a great deal:
1. Shanghai - Beijing - Budapest - Yugoslavia - Pola/Trieste;
2. Hong Kong - Bangkok - Frankfurt - Bucharest - Rome;
3. Shanghai - Hong Kong - Rome;
4. C.S.I. - former-Czechoslovakia - Germany - France - Spain - Milan;
5. Rumania - Hungary - Austria;
6. Albania - Brindisi;
7. Malta - Sicily.
The awareness of the different routes used by the traffickers could be fundamental in discovering and studying the criminal groups responsible for the trafficking in clandestine immigrants.
In consideration of the current socio-economic reality of the People's Republic of China, an increase in the flow of clandestine immigrants heading towards Western nations is probable.
If this is to become a reality, it would be difficult to enforce a monitoring activity on the citizens from the People's Republic without the previous knowledge necessary for any preventive action.
Further, if the Shengen Agreement, signed to favour the circulation of people within the European Union, is to be completely applied, such a need will become an absolute priority.
It is also necessary, particularly when dealing with the Chinese question, to plan ways to contrast clandestine immigration at its origin.
It is important to underline that a careful intelligence activity on clandestine immigration (in agreement with the authorities of interested nations) is the formula which allowed the American I.N.S. to achieve, with specific actions, excellent results in the fight against criminal organisations which deal in labour trafficking.
The necessity of a "modern system of information management" agreed upon by all the Shengen nations must be a top priority for all "those involved in the field".
Looking at the most common crimes committed by the citizens of the People's Republic, besides violation of the immigration laws, we can see that counterfeiting is the most common crime. (Graph 5)
In fact, falsifying public deeds, documents, credit cards, seals, passports, and residence permit authorisations seem to be the sector in which the Eastern criminal organisations excel world-wide.
In Italy the forging of residence permits, passports, driving licences, and other Chinese documents is extremely widespread. The citizens of the People's Republic are refining this craft to such a point that they can reproduce even the the Chinese government official seals.
For example, in August 1993 in Pistoia, Police seized official rubber-stamps of the People's Republic of China used to guarantee the authenticity of passports and of other identification documents; a seal for forging Chinese driving licences; a machine for heat-printing of Chinese plasticised driving licences; and a matrix for the Chinese official dry-stamp. Gambling too must be carefully looked at.
The organisation and the management of gambling is traditionally a prerogative of the Asian criminal organisations from which they make considerable profits.
At present, we are becoming aware of the threat posed by the Chinese criminal groups.
In Rome, in 1991 the strongest group was the "Tiger Head". Its leader was ZHOU Yi Ping, involved in the kidnapping of the Roman restaurant owner ZHOU Chao Hua and in a similar crime committed in France against LIAO Yin Xian.
It seems that two other groups operate in the capital: the "Bird of Paradise" and the "Oriental Alliance of Quin Tien".
The Chinese criminal groups criminal potential emerged from a police operation conducted by the D.I.A. called "Bitter Rice". We learnt that because contrasts had broken out between opposing groups from the People's Republic, many shrewd criminals had arrived from France to support one of the contenders.
It was ascertained that, in Apulia, a People's Republic national, DONG Xueshi, resident in Milan, had established contacts with the criminals BOGGIA Francesco and CARACCIOLO Roberto, both from Brindisi (a city in that region) in order to run a traffic of clandestine immigrants from the People's Republic. These immigrants were made to pass through Albania, were disembarked on the Apulian coast, and were introduced into Italy.
The greatest danger nevertheless is represented by the return in 1997 of Hong Kong under the sovereignty of the People's Republic of China.
There is widespread fear that important segments of the Chinese public opinion and of the ruling class could be led to think that the Triads' dirty money could become a pillar of the new economic course, of the free market era. It would instead be, as it is easily perceivable, a deadly embrace undermining at the very beginning the development of the Chinese society.

The identification of citizens from the People's Republic of China
The analysis by the D.I.A. has brought to light all the difficulties and the importance of a proper identification of individuals from the People's Republic of China.
Unlike Italian and other Western languages, Chinese is not based on an alphabetic system; it is composed of thousands of characters, each one representing only one syllable. Each syllable is in itself a unit, representing a complete idea.
Written Chinese is understood by all Chiese people, while spoken Chinese varies according to the dialect: in other words, even if all the Chinese read the same language, they can not understand those speaking different dialects.
The trasliteration (representing in Latin letters the sound of the Chinese character) of the ideograms (Chinese last names are formed by one or, more rarely, two ideograms) and the acquisition of personal details, that for this ethnic group are fundamental (place of birth, names of relatives, family members, work done, and other information) are very important operations.
In particular, the trasliteration can occur following different systems and thus the result for the same ideogram can be very different.
The correctness and homogeneity of trasliteration assumes, it goes without saying, specific importance when it comes to identifying people.
The importance of the choice of trasliteration system for Chinese names, both inside and outside China, is shown when considering that a Chinese could assume more than one identity using different systems of transliteration of the ideogram of his/her last name.
Therefore the trasliteration with the pinyin-mandarin system (which is the official one adopted in the People's Republic, in Hong Kong, and in the West) has to be integrated with the numeric formula extracted from a special code denominated the Standard Telegraphic Code (S.T.C.). In this way, it is possible to decipher the Chinese characters that make up personal details.
The S.T.C. is nothing more than a large conversion chart, where each Chinese ideogram is assigned a four digit number.
The D.I.A. has set itself a target in its approach to this criminal problem: to create rules and investigative methodologies, in one word to build up a complete culture in this fied, even in the awareness of entering an impenetrable world.
The "wall" of language can be overcome, much more difficult is to win the resistance and suspicions which make the Chinese communities abroad very difficult to penetrate.
It is very important to know, for example, that in the Chinese culture testifying before the police authorities or before a court is considered in itself a risky and inconsiderate act. Therefore witnessing and confirming it in a court of law can represent a real problem. It is advisable in these cases, where investigations allow, to exploit the provisions in sections 393 and following of the Criminal Procedure Code in order to acquire evidence.

Residence permits given to nationals of the Chinese area
Divided by nationality


Citizens of the People's Republic of China
Concentration of residence permits per region

Graph 2

Citizens of People's Republic of China
Valid residence permits per region

Graph 3

Immigrants of People's Republic of China
Valid residence permits x 10,000 residents

Graph 4

Immigrants of People's Republic of China
Main Crimes

Graph 5
La versione integrale del n. 4/2011 sarà disponibile online nel mese di maggio 2012.