Dozens nabbed in ‘Operation Emperor’

By Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2012-10-24 0:30:05

A Spanish judge has ordered the Chinese kingpin and 47 other suspects held without bail, after they were charged in a massive money laundering scheme involving 1.2 billion euros ($1.56 billion), the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported Sunday. 

Gao Ping, 45, a member of the Zhejiang Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was arrested on October 21 at his home in Madrid during a police campaign dubbed "Operation Emperor." More than 80 people were arrested across the country, 53 of whom were reported to be Chinese.

"The Spanish police had been keeping an eye on Gao for over two years. The local news said that the cops had an undercover agent working for him," Pan Yong, chairman of the Chinese Wenzhou Association of Spain, told the Global Times. "All the shareholders in his company were taken into custody."

The police displayed stacks of euros confiscated in the raid and some media said Gao may have 6 million euros in cash at his home.

Gao, who left his hometown in Zhejiang when he was 18, was charged with money laundering, tax evasion and forgery.

News reports say Gao heads one of the largest trading companies in Madrid and owned an electronics company in Hangzhou. He was said to have made his initial fortune by importing to Europe small commodities from Zhejiang.

Pan said Chinese businesses in Fuenlabrada, a satellite town of Madrid, where the police raids took place, were feeling the effects of the bust and their business had dropped significantly.

"Customers are not coming and after extensive media reports some of our children were called 'little Chinese mafia' by their schoolmates," said Liu Yaping, a Chinese businessman in Madrid and former chairman of the Chinese Enterprise Association in Spain.

Spanish police said Gao was head of a criminal network they dubbed the "Chinese mafia."

Both Pan and Liu were acquainted with Gao, who is an active member of the association. "We were shocked by the news. He seemed to be a nice person, not someone you would think would be involved in violence," Pan added.

Spain's chief anti-corruption prosecutor Antonio Salina accused Gao of laundering up to 300 million euros a year. Other interior ministry officials said Gao's activities had "distorted" the Spanish economy, El Pais reported.

Judge Germando Andreu, who ordered 47 suspects to be held without bail, allowed 23 others released on bail  up to 100,000 euros.

After 28 years in Madrid, Pan said Spain is among the most Chinese-friendly countries in Europe. "There were plans to hold a protest, but in the end we decided to call it off," Pan said, "We still don't know what is really going on and we want to show some respect to the Spanish judicial system."

China's foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, Tuesday urged the Spanish government to act in accordance with the law and protect the legal rights of Chinese citizens.

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