Italian prosecutors seek to indict Bank of China, 297 people
Italian prosecutors are seeking to indict 297 people and the Bank of China in connection with a massive money-laundering investigation reported by The Associated Press earlier this month.
The suspects, mostly Chinese migrants living in Italy, include four senior managers of the Chinese state bank's branch in Milan. According to prosecutors, at least some of the suspects used Mafia-like techniques, including intimidation, the ANSA news agency reported Saturday.
The case highlights the large underground Chinese economy in Europe and the failure of judicial and legal cooperation to keep pace with the economic ties, both legal and illegal, that bind China with the West.
Prosecutors said more than €4.5 billion ($5.1 billion) in proceeds from counterfeiting, prostitution, labour exploitation and tax evasion was sent to China in less than four years using a money-transfer service partly owned by Chinese migrants. Nearly half that money was funneled through the Bank of China, which in turn earned over 758,000 euros in commissions, according to Italian investigative documents. Prosecutors said the money had been fractioned into small sums to avoid detection and that the bank's management and audit staff failed to report suspicious transactions, helping conceal the source and destination of the funds.
Beijing, which is seeking Western help in hunting its own economic fugitives, did not cooperate with the investigation, Italian officials said. Once the money left Italy, it effectively vanished. Italian police were unable to continue their investigation in China, but the AP was able to track some of the missing money to a large government-controlled import-export company that has been accused of repeatedly shipping counterfeit merchandise, some of it to the United States.