Italy arrests 58 suspected of drug trafficking via Chinese money brokers

Tue, Oct 17
Key Points
  • 58 people have been arrested in Italy and Spain on suspicion of drug trafficking, money laundering, and fraud.
  • A network involved in the supply of hashish and marijuana, totaling around 30 million tonnes, has been uncovered.
  • Unlicensed Chinese money brokers were used to facilitate the illegal activities, collecting money in Italy to be transferred to Spain in return for a commission.
  • The arrests were made in various cities across Italy and Spain, and police are conducting searches in 96 locations.

Italy's tax police said on Tuesday that 58 people had been arrested in Italy and Spain on suspicion of international drug trafficking, money laundering and fraud facilitated by unlicensed Chinese money brokers.

A network supplying around 30 million tonnes of hashish and marijuana had been uncovered, police said, adding some 42 million euros ($44.2 million) had changed hands in the process among a group of Italian and Spanish suspects, assisted by others of Albanian and Chinese origin.

Investigations had focused on the use of shadow banking services run by ethnic Chinese individuals, who collected money in Italy to be transferred to Spain in return for a commission, the Guardia di Finanza police said.

The Italian authorities have highlighted the growing role played by such money brokers to conceal cross-border payments by drug cartels, mirroring an issue their U.S. counterparts have faced in connection with Latin American narcotics groups.

The arrests on Tuesday were made across cities in northern Italy, including Milan and Turin, as well as further south in Rome and Catania in Sicily, as well as in Spain.

Police teams using sniffer dogs were also searching 96 locations in parts of Italy, neighbouring Switzerland and Spain.

($1 = 0.9494 euros)