Spanish police said they have broken up a major Chinese criminal operation that illegally shipped Chinese products to Spain for distribution throughout Europe.
Spanish police chief Ignacio Cosido said Wednesday authorities detained 83 suspected members of a crime syndicate in nationwide raids on homes and businesses the previous day. The suspects include 58 Chinese nationals, 17 Spaniards and eight other foreign nationals.
Cosido said around 500 officers were involved in what Spanish authorities called "Operation Emperor," which mainly targeted an industrial zone in the central town of Fuenlabrada, outside the capital, Madrid. The Cobo Calleja zone houses hundreds of distributors of Chinese products, making it the largest Chinese wholesale hub in Europe.
The Spanish police chief said authorities believe the crime syndicate smuggled cheap Chinese goods into Spain, evading taxes and illegally transferring some of the proceeds back to China. He said the rest of the money is thought to have been laundered inside Spain through illicit activities such as prostitution.
The detained suspects include prominent Madrid-based Chinese businessman and art gallery owner Gao Ping; Fuenlabrada city council member Jose Borras; and a Spanish porn actor Nacho Vidal.
Madrid's El Imparcial newspaper quoted a local Chinese business group as expressing concern that the breakup of the Chinese crime syndicate will tarnish the image of Spain's Chinese community. The organization said most Chinese students and workers in the country are dedicated and honest people who are trying to help the Spanish economy recover.
Tuesday's raids also led to the seizure of $15 million in cash, about 200 vehicles and a similar number of bank accounts.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.