INFO EUROPE 1 – French intelligence has pierced the last secrets of the Chinese mafia
06:26, January 30, 2023modified to
07:48, January 30, 2023
It arouses less media fantasy than the Italian and Russian mafia or the Colombian cartels. It has long been considered secondary because it is not very visible. But today, the Chinese mafia is now assessed as a “high threat” in France. In a recent note co-signed at the beginning of the year by customs intelligence (DNRED) and criminal intelligence (SIRASCO) that Europe 1 consulted, the analysts reveal point by point the “outstanding capacity for resilience and adaptation “of the Chinese mafia in the territory.
Chinese criminal groups have made money laundering their specialty. Wherever the diaspora is installed, they offer their services to the local mafias. For 15 years now, the police have been discreetly observing, through their investigations, the mechanisms put in place. This environment has long had an inaccessible and impenetrable reputation. But in the age of surveillance of mobile phones and messaging apps, the connections, flows and laundering mechanisms are gradually being revealed.
Alliances with other criminal groups
One of the first lessons to be learned is the diversity of the Chinese mafia’s portfolio of alliances with other trafficking networks. If the borders of crime have never been totally hermetic, the Chinese mafia has entered into pacts with other players in the market. The one with the South American cartels and the Caribbean arc is well in place. A recent investigation by the French anti-narcotics office (OFAST) thus demonstrated that in Guyana, the Asian community, very established, laundered the money of traffickers who exported cocaine by sea from the port of Dégrad des Cannes to Western Europe.
Another connection has been unearthed with the countries of Eastern Europe. Last year, customs officers discovered nearly 1.3 million euros in cash in the trailer of a truck driven by Poles. According to their statements, it was the Chinese who took care of the loading and unloading of the goods. Several investigations have brought to light a fundraising system using Polish freight companies to evacuate cash in trucks on an axis linking Aubervilliers to Poland via the Czech Republic.
Franco-Israeli crooks have also enlisted the services of the Chinese mafia. They buy Chinese RIBs at high prices to easily transfer large sums and get rid of bundles of banknotes accumulated on French territory. They salute the opacity of the Chinese banks, which are not very attentive and do not cooperate with the French tax and judicial services.
“Laundress” of thugs of all kinds, the Chinese mafia also offers its expertise to Turkish criminal groups, very active in the building and construction sector in France. Sort of occult bank, it is she, there again, which remunerates, in cash, the undeclared workers on the building sites, taking in passing a commission. Even the “Corsican milieu”, with the Ajaccian band of the “Petit bar”, approached the Chinese from Aubervilliers through intermediaries to disburse their substantial cash in their possession.
“A global network”
If the Chinese mafia has won its napkin ring at the table of international crime, it is because it is the only one which controls, on this scale, the commercial activity of the Asian diaspora, presented by intelligence as “a gray economy at the service of organized crime”.
To launder dirty money from narcotics and scams, the Chinese mafia relies on textile wholesale centers, veritable “washing machines” for banknotes to reinject them into the legal economy. The investigators identify eleven main “hubs” in Europe, including three in France: the CIFA (Centre international France Asie) in Aubervilliers, the MIF (Marseille international fashion center) 68 in Marseille and the “Silk road Paris” in Tremblay-en -France, whose proximity to Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport makes it a strategic site.
These sites are managed directly by Chinese wholesalers from the Whenzhou or Vietnamese community of Chinese origin, as is the case in Poland. “These centers offer a considerable opportunity for various frauds and money laundering”, note the editors of the note. The largest, that of Aubervilliers, brings together 280 wholesalers on 40,000m², “a nerve center for money laundering operated by the Chinese community”.
Bleaching mechanisms identified
It is from these “hubs” that mules are responsible for collecting banknotes before physically transporting them by air, rail or road to Eastern European countries. The ultimate repatriation to China is sometimes even done with the complicity of airline crew members, specially recruited to help them on their journey. This so-called “ant” traffic is very difficult for the police to disorient, since a dismantled network is immediately replaced by another.
The Chinese mafia also offers “turnkey” clearing services for other mafias. As by delivering textiles to Morocco, via Spain and the enclaves of Ceuta and Melila, in exchange for money from drug trafficking in the Parisian cities. The cash can then be sold in casinos and gaming circles. Several recent surveys have shown that loans with high interest were taken from indebted casino players.
In the Paris region, it is the PMU tobacco bars that serve as a money laundering hub. They are often bought “in an opaque way” by young Chinese who also have French nationality. “The sign is then in practice managed in a clan manner, the parents being able in particular to be employees of the company. […] Gold, [les services] were able to observe that several young purchasers of tobacco bars had as parents [des individus] unfavorably known for acts of financial crime”, one can read in these 16 pages, graphs and maps in support. In these economic-family societies, the central figure is the father. But he only rarely appears in the The lifespan of companies is often short and straw managers are replaced by members of the extended family, which complicates long-term controls.
Finally, another very developed practice, that of “daigou”, or “purchase for others”, which consists of “instrumentalising Chinese tourists” who benefit from the tax refund as non-resident traveler of the European Union “by making them purchase, for remuneration, luxury products on behalf of the network”. Several surveys have highlighted the links between travel agencies, transport companies that take care of Chinese tourists in Paris and the Asian triads.
A comprehensive China strategy
France and more broadly Europe are an almost inexhaustible playground for the Chinese mafia which takes full advantage of the ambitions of Beijing, a veritable “factory of the world”. The “New Silk Road” project launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping aims to integrate China into a larger Eurasian entity encompassing 68 countries, 4 billion inhabitants and 62% of world GDP. For this, Chinese investments have multiplied in port and rail infrastructure.
Since 2013, the Chinese government has invested in 14 European ports and holds shares in those of Dunkirk, Le Havre and Nantes. However, European ports are currently saturated and the maximum rate of goods controls set by Europe for reasons of traffic fluidity is only around 5%. An unparalleled opportunity for fraud related to customs duties. On the rail side, Beijing is subsidizing infrastructure to shorten transport times between China and the EU. But the war in Ukraine is reshaping the rail freight map. The northern routes that pass through Russia, Belarus or Ukraine are abandoned, in favor of the central corridor that crosses Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Romania.
Regularly, the gabelous open “containers of goods declared for 8,000 euros while their real value can reach 150,000 to 200,000 euros”. A considerable shortfall for the States. In 2019, the European Commission estimated that the difference between the VAT due and that actually entered into the fund was 13 billion euros for France alone (140 billion euros for all member states).
“I call it large-scale looting. In my opinion, it is one of the biggest criminal threats in France with narcobanditism,” said a former internal security attaché stationed in Beijing. “This quasi-predation is organized, if not with the complicity of the Chinese government, at least with its approval,” he continues. A game of diplomatic dupe, moreover, with French companies and authorities: “The Chinese police regularly publicize seizures of counterfeits in factories. They destroy them. But they know very well that this is only a tiny part of the traffic,” he concludes.
I have been working as a journalist for over 10 years. In that time, I have covered the news from all corners of the world, and written about everything from politics to business.I’m now a full-time author, and my work can be found at Global happenings. My aim is to bring you up-to-date news and views on global affairs, in a format that is easy to read and understand.
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