MILAN – Italian law enforcement authorities arrested 33 Chinese people in a major bust in Prato, in the Tuscan region, on Thursday morning, according to Italian media reports.

Allegedly members of a Chinese mafia clan based in Prato, the individuals were charged with spearheading logistics and ground-shipment of Chinese products in Italy and southern Europe, including counterfeit goods. The investigation dubbed “China truck,” managed by the city’s police jointly with the anti-mafia investigation district office in Florence, was first kicked off in 2011.

Prato, long known as the heart of Tuscany’s textile industry, has changed dramatically over the last decade, with many garment businesses now run by Chinese immigrants, which has created cultural tension in the region.

The Chinese organization is believed to have conducted its business through an organized-crime ring, which backed up its operations with violence and intimidation and allegedly involving gambling operations, prostitution, trafficking in illegal drugs and the management of nightclubs.

The police also raided minor organizations in other Italian cities including Rome, Florence, Milan, as well as Padua and Pisa, in the Veneto and Tuscan region, respectively, believed to be linked with the one in Prato, according to media reports.

The “China Truck” operation also allowed authorities to identify Chinese organized-crime rings in France and Spain.

Prosecuting attorneys at the Department of Justice in Florence were not available to comment at press time.

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