Italian police raid 70 Chinese businesses

AFP , Tuesday 21 Jun 2011

Police crackdown targets 70 Chinese textile businesses in Prato on charges of fraud and preventing capital flow from Italy to China

Italian police on Tuesday raided 70 Chinese-owned businesses in the textile industry hub of Prato and seized assets worth 25 million euros (36 million dollars) in an anti-fraud crackdown.

The operation in central Italy was "a dam on the flow of money from Italy to China," financial police said in a statement, adding that the alleged crimes included fraudulent money transfers and the creation of shell companies.

Police said they have seized 396 bank accounts, 183 vehicles and 76 properties. A total of 500 officers were involved in the operation.

Tensions are high in Prato between the local authorities and the estimated 3,400 small Chinese businesses that have mushroomed there in recent years, producing clothes for major international brands including Zara and H&M.

Police say the town has become a new Chinese gangland but immigrants defend it as a revitalised hub of Italy's flagging textile industry.

Chinese immigrants began arriving in Prato some 20 years ago, initially working for Italian companies before setting up their own businesses.

There are now officially some 17,000 Chinese residents -- up to 50,000 including undocumented migrants -- out of a population of 188,000 in Prato.

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