The recently detained migration official, left, and two Chinese nationals

A high-level migration official and two Chinese nationals were arrested in Argentina as part of an ongoing investigation into the country's largest Chinese mafia, revealing the scope of the group's criminal activity and its penetration of state institutions. 

Federal police officers arrested Leonardo Javier Rende, head of Argentina's national migration commission, and two Chinese citizens on November 30 during five raids conducted in and around the capital city of Buenos Aires, reported Clarín. Rende is accused of taking bribes in exchange for facilitating a human smuggling ring run by a Chinese mafia called "Pixiu," whose principal leaders were captured in June of this year. 

During the investigation into Pixiu, considered to be Argentina's most powerful Chinese mafia, authorities intercepted nearly 30 phone conversations between Rende and an intermediary for the mafia's top boss, Yong Ye, reported Infobae. Security Ministry officials say Rende planned on freeing eight Chinese women who had been detained in May on suspicion of being victims of human smuggling. Rende reportedly said he would hand the women over to the Pixiu once they had been freed. 

Rende is also accused of aiding a separate human smuggling operation allegedly managed by Xu Kequiang, who was one of the Chinese nationals arrested during the November 30 raids. 

In addition to human smuggling, Pixiu was deeply involved in extortion. Judicial authorities believe the mafia earned up to $1.5 million per month by extorting close to 300 Chinese-owned supermarkets, according to Infobae.

InSight Crime Analysis

In one sense, the Pixiu is emblematic of how Chinese mafias operate throughout Latin America. Human smuggling and extortion of Chinese-run supermarkets are the principal revenue streams for many of the groups. And while there have been reports of Chinese mafias operating in several parts of the region and as far north as the US-Mexico border, they appear to be most active in Argentina.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

At the same time, the Pixiu is anomalous because of its sheer size and its apparent ability to co-opt high-level officials. Given its multi-million dollar earnings from human smuggling and extortion, Pixiu may not just be the largest Chinese-run criminal organization in the country, but one of the biggest in Latin America. This case is also the first in recent memory in which a government official has been found to be colluding with a Chinese mafia, according to Infobae. 

The Pixiu may represent a natural evolution of Chinese organized crime in Latin America. As China's commerical ties to the region have grown since the turn of the century, so too have the criminal opportunities for Chinese mafias based in the region, portending the rise of larger and more sophisticated groups like the Pixiu.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.