Chinese traders strike in Spain over crackdown

Chinese businesses in a major trading estate in Madrid staged a rare strike Saturday to protest a police crackdown on alleged money-laundering which they said had stigmatized them.

Hundreds of warehouses in the Cobo Calleja industrial zone, considered the biggest Chinese wholesale hub in Europe, shut down for the day to highlight how Chinese businesses have suffered since last month's raids.

"With this protest, which is rare in my culture, we want to send the message that we have nothing to do with corruption," said Yinong Chen, a spokesman for the Cobo Calleja Business Association.

"We act legally, we pay our taxes and we want to integrate into Spanish society," he said, in comments broadcast on national radio station RNE.

Spanish prosecutors on October 16 said they had broken up a gang suspected of laundering up to 300,000 euros ($385,000) a year, dodging taxes, bribing officials and forging documents.

Police said they arrested more than 80 people, most of them Chinese.

Among them was the man who court sources said was suspected of being the leader of the network: Gao Ping, 45, who owns a wholesale business in Cobo Calleja as well as art galleries in Madrid and Beijing.

He has been remanded in custody pending an ongoing investigation into the alleged racket, and may go on trial.

In its efforts to fix its public finances, the Spanish government this year launched a crackdown on fiscal fraud but also announced an amnesty for some back taxes owed on big fortunes.

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