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Saturday, December 21, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Chinese Triad expands in T&T
For the past decade, intelligence units have been gathering information on the expansion of the Chinese Triad, a highly organised criminal unit which has spread its tentacles throughout the Caribbean.Sources say the Caribbean’s Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) has been working with local security intelligence agencies, tracking the activities of Chinese criminal cartels in the region since 2006. In T&T, previous Governments were cautioned about a possible upsurge in criminal activity driven by Asian gangs which have been infiltrating the region.
However, no connection was made between that development and the recent huge influx of Chinese labourers into the country to work on large scale construction projects, including construction of the Prime Minister’s official residence and the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA). Under the current administration, ties with the Chinese Government are still strong. China continues to invest millions of dollars in aid and soft loans to T&T and other Caribbean Governments (see side bar).
Chinese Ambassador to T&T Yang Youming has distanced himself from reports of Asian criminal gangs operating in this country, saying he had no knowledge of those developments. He expressed concern that such reports were hurting the image of the Chinese in T&T. However, a senior intelligence source said moves by a previous Government to encourage Chinese immigration facilitated further expansion of the Chinese Triad, which disguises its illicit activities under a cover of global commercialism.
While the Triad grows, hundreds of Chinese restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, casinoes and private members clubs have sprung up throughout the country. Last month, Independent Senator Rolph Balgobin, in his contribution to debate on the Financial Intelligence (Amendment) Bill 2011, called for a police probe of several questionable new businesses in T&T. Balgobin said terrorist and criminal networks were “living high”, while genuine businesses are facing strangulation because of the global economic crisis. “Clearly many of these (new) businesses have no clear source of funding and even more importantly, they do not have a sustainable business model,” Balgobin said.
He said many of the businessmen “can’t speak the language, they haven’t even mastered the basics of the societies that they are operating in and you have a million-dollar business.” The Triad is governed by a strict code of ethics which ensures that most of their activities remain secret. Members are part of a hierarchy and stringent discipline is enforced by the leaders. Coming out of the Triad is an entity known as the Snakehead Gang which is made up of the younger generation of Triad members, and who reportedly handle human trafficking. It is not known if there are Snakehead Gangs in T&T.
Composition of the Chinese Triad
Based on information from the United States County Sheriff’s Department in Los Angeles, there are four major Chinese Triads operating in the western hemisphere. These are Sung Lian, Tian Dao Man, Four Seas and the United Bamboo, which have proliferated throughout the western world into a highly organised global network. Sung Lian has several hundred members, mostly second-and third-generation mainland immigrants who are involved in a range of activities, including debt collection, brothels and small businesses. The Tian Dao Man has several hundred members who are mostly native Taiwanese. They are involved in debt collection, massage parlours, brothels, small businesses. Intelligence sources say that the Tian Dao Man had a presence in Grenada. However, speculation is rife that the United Bamboo cartel as well as the Four Seas gang have set up operations in this country.
The Four Seas gang has more than 2,000 members in the United States alone. Most of them are second-and third-generation immigrants who are primarily involved in construction, security services, debt collection, massage parlours, brothels and small businesses.
The United Bamboo cartel is by far the largest with more than 10,000 members in the US. Its base comprises of second-and third-generation immigrants who like the Four Seas are involved in construction, security services, debt collection, loan sharking, gambling dens, private members’ clubs, restaurants and small businesses. It is believed that most of the Chinese underworld are linked to the United Bamboo and are guided by a specific code of ethics which maintains their quiet expansion and organisational success.
According to the code translated from a document titled “Portrait of a Triad”, members must maintain harmony with locals as their first priority. The clause indicates that all members must “establish good social and personal connections so as not to create enemies.” The leaders also seek special favours and help from uncommitted gang members by emphasising relationships with outside people. Gambling is the cartel’s main financial source but members are mandated to be careful about how gambling affairs are handled. The code also states: “Do not take it upon yourself to start things and make decisions you are not authorised to make. You are to discuss and plan all matters with the group and the elder brother first.” All members are given assigned responsibility and they are urged not to create confusion.
Another clause of the code reads: “We must not divulge our plans and affairs to outsiders, for example to our wives, girlfriends, etc. “This is for our own safety. We have to be united with all our brothers and obey our elder brother’s orders. All money earned outside the group must be turned over to the group. You must not keep any of it for yourself. Let the elder brother decide.” When targeting wealthy prospects, members of the Triad are mandated that they must not act hastily.
“Furthermore, do not harass or threaten them. Act to prevent suspicion and fear upon their part. If anything unexpected happens, do not abandon your brothers. If arrested, shoulder all responsibility and blame. Do not involve your brothers,” the code states. This code of ethics has ensured that all matters related to the Chinese community are kept secret. Police said although there have been incidents of assault and theft, these are almost never reported to local authorities.
‘We are not all bad’
Meanwhile, members of the local Chinese community said the expansion of the Triad has caused discrimination against Chinese immigrants, many of whom are making a positive contribution to the development of T&T. A Chinese restaurateur of San Fernando, who has lived in Trinidad for the past eight years, said the kidnapping and possible death of 31-year-old Xue Hua Shan, as well as the murder of businessman Andrew Chin, has shaken up the community. Shan was abducted just before 11 pm on April 13, from her Seventh Street, Barataria, home. Chin, 61, of Hillsborough, Maraval, was murdered on April 17, just outside his restaurant in Ellerslie Plaza, Maraval. Information circulating within the Chinese community suggest that a Hong Kong businessman, who came to investigate Shan’s disappearance, may have been linked to her alleged killing.
“We hearing Shan was girlfriend to this Hong Kong businessman and his family find out and they kill she,” the restaurateur said with a thick accent. She explained that Chin was not “clean” and had been involved in money laundering. Another San Fernando business owner, who came to Trinidad during the 1970s, said the proliferation of the Chinese Triad was hurting the reputation of the Chinese. “If this no stop, Chinee no live Trinidad,” she said wiggling her finger. She said with recent media reports, immigration officers and police have been keeping a closer eye on Chinese businesspeople, a move which she strongly recommended. “It have good Chinee and bad Chinee. They have to send back bad Chinee,” she said.
Investments by China in the Caribbean
But despite the proliferation of the Chinese Triad in the region, the Chinese Government as well as Chinese corporations have been contributing positively to the development of Caribbean islands. At a time when many Caribbean Governments are struggling with the economic downturn, Chinese corporations have been creating new markets for their products, spending billions in major tourism projects, financing roads, ports and creating amalgamations with companies. The following is a list of major projects funded by the Chinese Government in the Caribbean.
Chinese Government makes a commitment in 2011 to build a $600 million deep sea harbour, highway and port in Suriname to improve linkages with Brazil.
China invests $462 million in a stalled beach front resort Punta Perla on Dominican Republic’s east Coast.
Hong Kong based conglomerate, Hutchison Whampoa Limited, commits to $1 billion container port in Bahamas.
Chinese Government spends $17 million on cricket stadium and $122 million in economic assistance to Dominica.
Chinese mining company Bosai Minerals Group gains majority stake from Guyanese Government, after making a $100 million purchase in Omai Bauxite Mining.
China’s Shanghai Construction builds official Prime Minister’s residence and National Academy of Performing Arts in Trinidad.
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