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Chinese Shadow Banks Linked to $1.9 Billion Italy Tax Fraud

Police said bogus companies transferred money to Chinese banks, claiming it was payment for imported products that had never taken place

Unlicensed Chinese money brokers have been the focus of a number of investigations over the past year in Italy.


A network of so-called Chinese shadow banks are suspected of being involved in a $1.9 billion tax fraud.

Italian police said on Thursday the fraud had been carried out by 85 suspects – 64 of whom are Chinese nationals – involving 1.7 billion euros in false invoices, with the money laundered through the banks.

Guardia di Finanza (GdF) police in Ancona, a port city on Italy’s eastern Adriatic coast, said they seized assets worth 350 million euros, including cash, luxury cars and real estate.

They also blocked 1,569 bank accounts, ordered the sequester of 140 companies believed to have issued false invoices and searched properties in Milan and the surrounding Lombardy region, Florence, Padova and Sicily.

People with direct knowledge of the matter said that the investigation was ongoing to identify the Italian customers who used the service to launder cash.


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The emergence of a kind of parallel underground banking system run by unlicensed Chinese money brokers has been the focus of several investigations over the past year in Italy.

These investigations, carried out in different parts of Italy, led the authorities to assume the existence of a broader array of services offered by Chinese-linked organisations, including concealing cross-border payments for drug cartels and facilitating tax evasion.

The GdF said prosecutors in Ancona found that fictitious ‘paper” companies issued false invoices and told customers into which Italian bank account to make the payments.

Once the money had arrived, the bogus company would then transfer the same amount to an account in a Chinese bank, justifying it as payment for imports of products that had never taken place.

The original sum, minus commission, was returned in cash by couriers to the customer who made the first payment, according to the police statement.

The GdF said the use of an “underground bank” network was making it possible to launder billions of euros.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara


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Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


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