A series of arrests have highlighted how Chinese organized crime maintains a strong influence in Argentina’s capital, where merchants often must pay tens of thousands of dollars in extortion fees.
The president of the Chinese Supermarket Chamber of Commerce, Ke Deqiang, was charged with being behind an extortion ring in La Plata, a city near the capital, according to Infobae. On May 19, Deqiang escaped from the police station where he was being held – by walking out the door.
Footage of his escape released by Infobae shows him walking out of the building and then climbing over an outside gate.
“It is totally impossible to escape from that police station without complicity from the outside,” the former head of the First Police Station in La Plata told Infobae. “There is no way to leave without the door being opened for you,” he affirmed.
Also in May, a string of police raids in Buenos Aires’ eastern neighborhood of La Boca dismantled another Chinese mafia extortion ring. The ring’s alleged leader, along with several other members, were described by authorities as belonging to the Panda clan, a longtime mafia group in Argentina.
The group was found with notes written in Mandarin demanding payment of $50,000 from Chinese supermarkets in the area. The notes warned that failure to pay would end in them being shot.
InSight Crime Analysis
Efforts to target the leadership of different Chinese mafia groups in Argentina have proven unsuccessful in stopping their extortive practices. Corruption and cultural differences on the part of public officials still appear to play a role in the inability of police to root them out.
These groups maintain a hand in drug trafficking, human smuggling, and money laundering. But they mostly prey on the Chinese diaspora in and around Buenos Aires, reaping profits from extortion.
Police efforts to dismantle powerful factions within the organization have been consistently stymied by language barriers, resistance from within local Chinese communities and of course, official collusion.
In 2016, the “Pixiu Mafia,” considered the most powerful Chinese mafia in the country and potentially the continent, was dealt a heavy blow. A series of high-level arrests under Operation Dragon’s Head was said to significantly weaken the organization.
Now some seven years later, criminal groups appear to be employing the exact same tactics, extorting businesses for anywhere between $30,000-50,000 with impunity.