Home ✦ ✦ Unlabelled ✦ Perusahaan Kriminal China
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By Ning-Ning Mahlmann, PhD*Asian Criminal Enterprise Unit Organized Crime
SectionCriminal Investigative DivisionFederal Bureau of Investigation Introduction Chinese criminal enterprises are those ethnic Chinese organized crime groups engaged in racketeering activities.
Chinese criminal enterprises which the FBI has investigated over the years can be categorized into two types: traditional criminal enterprises (i.e., Wo Hop To Triad, 14K Triad) and non-traditional Chinese criminal enterprises (i.e., Fu Ching Gang and Tai Huen Chai aka Big Circle
Boys). Traditional Chinese criminal enterprises are based in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.
Many non-traditional Chinese criminal enterprises are based in various countries which have sizable Asian communities. Traditional Chinese Criminal Enterprises and Their Activities Traditional Chinese criminal enterprises are triad groups which share the following similarities: a historical origin that can be traced back several hundred years, a rigid hierarchical organizational structure and a ritual that binds their members together. For example, San Yee On of the Chiu Chow group was formed exclusively by the Chiu Chow minority people in Hong Kong, has a rigid hierarchical organizational structure and uses the triad rituals, such as an initiation ceremony for the new members and a promotion ceremony for members promoted to the Office Bearer rank. Leaders of triad societies do not direct the activities of their members in other countries, but their influence is international due to their financial strength and global business and personal connections. Most of the senior members of these well-established triad societies are quasi-legitimate businessmen. Many of them have obtained foreign passports for themselves and their family members and have diversified their businesses and invested their criminal proceeds in other countries. They cooperate with overseas triad members to undertake international crimes, such as drug trafficking, alien smuggling, credit card fraud, theft of computer equipment and automobiles, piracy of intellectual property, and money laundering. With some exceptions, the organizational structure of modern day Chinese triads is flatter and simpler. "Office Bearers do not, however, dictate to their members what criminal activities they will or will not get involved in. The degree to which Office Bearers receive monetary benefits from their position in the hierarchy of the society varies. Those in direct control of a criminal enterprise will profit from it while others, to whom the elevated rank is a reward in itself, may not derive any direct share of the profits from members' activities."1 Most triad societies have been decentralized to the extent that there is no ultimate central committee to unify different factions of the society which fight against one another for turf control. Modern triad members who only look out for their personal benefits are individualistic entrepreneurs. They switch triad societies almost at will and are rarely loyal to the organization they belong to. They weigh the benefits they can get out of their Dai Lo (Big Brother). If they are not satisfied with the relationship, she or he can approach a new Dai Lo from another triad group and request to come under his wings. They use their triad organization as a power base which provides them a network where they can assemble resources to organize criminal activities for fast money. Non-traditional Chinese Criminal Enterprises and Their Activities Non-traditional Chinese criminal enterprises are organized crime groups operating outside of Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and the People's Republic of China which may or may not share the name of a Hong Kong or Taiwan triad but are not otherwise related. Although many nontraditional Chinese criminal enterprises in the United States have ties to Chinese criminal groups in other countries, they are independent entities. For example, Tung On Gang was a major criminal organization in New York City and had expanded its activities in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States of the United States. The former leader of this gang was a Red Pole (high-level Office Bearer) of San Yee On Triad in Hong Kong. In addition to its usual street gang activities, such as debt collection, protection, and enforcement, Tung On Gang also conducted organized crime activities such as extortion, murder, illegal gambling, alien smuggling, drug trafficking, and money laundering. Tung On Gang's activities were directed locally. San Yee On Triad in Hong Kong was only its connection for importing and distributing of Southeast Asian heroin at the wholesale and retail level. After the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, the United States adopted a liberal policy in granting PRC citizens "political asylum" which attracted a large number of Chinese immigrants to this country. Fueled by the dramatic increase of Chinese immigrants and the large amount of money which has continuously flowed into North America from Hong Kong, Taiwan and recently China, the Chinese communities in North America have grown rapidly and prosperously. This has provided a huge market for local gang members to expand their influence. Many members of Chinese gangs in the United States who are seasoned criminals tend to involve themselves in more profitable and more complex criminal activities. To maintain their competitiveness, some strong gang leaders have attempted to solidify their power bases in various Asian communities by forming alliances with gangs in other regions. The dominant position of members of old triad societies from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau and criminally influenced Tongs2 is challenged by newer criminal groups, such as Big Circle Boys and Fu Ching Gang, which originated in Mainland China. It is reported that the freedom with which these newer Chinese organized crime groups can operate in China is unmatched by any other crime groups. They also have contacts worldwide which enable them to carry out various sophisticated crimes that require extensive coordinated efforts of members in other regions or countries. Crime Problems of Chinese Criminal Enterprises in the United States Chinese criminal elements have been in existence in the United States for more than 120 years. These criminals in the past victimized only people living in various Chinese communities. Chinese communities were somewhat homogeneous in previous years, consisting of Cantonese and, to a lesser extent, Toisanese speaking people from Hong Kong and Guangdong Province in China. Nowadays, the Chinese communities have become diverse, consisting of ethnic Chinese from Hong Kong, Taiwan, various provinces in China, Vietnam, Thai, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and the Philippines. The dominant language is slowly changing from Chinese-Cantonese to Chinese-Mandarin. Chinese criminals who have become mature no longer just victimize individuals in their communities, but also victimize various U.S. institutions. Based on the FBI's recent and past investigations, Chinese criminals represent the entire spectrum of Asian criminal enterprises in their criminal activities and their levels of criminality (from the simple street gang members to the quasi-legitimate businessmen with international connections). Compared to other Asian criminal enterprise investigations, the FBI's Chinese criminal enterprise investigations have consistently ranked number one in terms of the number of cases, the complexity of the cases, and the impact on the U.S. society. In 1998, at least 44.93 per cent of reported pending Asian criminal enterprise cases are categorized as Chinese criminal enterprises. The following twenty-nine FBI field offices reported investigations related to ethnic Chinese criminal enterprises: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, Richmond, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Francisco, San Diego, San Juan, Seattle, Tampa, and Washington Field Office. Most of these Chinese criminal enterprises have worked with criminal groups of other ethnic and racial backgrounds, such as Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, Italian, Dominican, and Hispanic, so long as these groups have some areas of expertise that will facilitate their various profit making ventures. Even though most Chinese criminal enterprises have joined forces with criminals of other ethnic and racial backgrounds, the nucleus of Chinese criminal enterprises consists of only very few trusted ethnic Chinese individuals. In recent years, the FBI has investigated Chinese gangs (including street youth gangs), criminally influenced Chinese Tongs, Chinese triads, and Chinese criminal enterprises. Most of these Chinese criminal groups are not unified entities. They consist of loosely organized independent criminal cells run by influential individuals or cliques of individuals. While a small hierarchy exists within the cells, there is no known central authority controlling each organization. The following charts indicates the names of nationally recognizable Chinese gangs, triads, and criminally influenced Tongs which the FBI has investigated in 1998. TRIADS • 14K Triad • Four Seas Gang • King Yee Triad • Hung Mun Triad • San Yee On Triad • Wo Hop To Triad • Wo Lee Kwan Triad • Wo On Lok Triad (also known as the Shui Fong)• Wo Shing Wo Triad • Wo Shing Yee Triad • United Bamboo Gang • Yee Kwan Triad CRIMINALLY INFLUENCED TONGS• Hip Shing Tong • Hop Shing Tong • On Leong Tong (also known as On Leong Laborer and Merchant Association)• Three Mountains Association • Tsung Tsin Association • Ying Ong Tong CHINESE GANGS• Flying Dragon Gang • Fu Ching Gang • Ghost Shadow Gang • Green Dragon Gang • Tai Huen Chai (also known as Big Circle Boys)• Tung On Gang • Tien Tao Meng • Wa Ching Gang The criminal activity engaged in by Chinese criminal enterprises is considered to be more diverse and more complex than other Asian groups. The impact of their criminal activities tends to be felt nationally or transnationally. Their methods and criminal activities are frequently emulated by other Asian groups. For example, violent home invasion robbery was first employed by members of Big Circle Boys originated from the People's Republic of China. This criminal activity was copied and became the signature crime of Vietnamese criminal enterprises in the United States. U.S. law enforcement agencies face not only traditional organized crime problems within various Chinese communities such as extortion, murder, kidnaping, illegal gambling, prostitution, home invasion robbery, and loan-sharking, but also international ethnic Chinese organized crime problems, including alien smuggling, drug trafficking, credit card fraud, theft of automobiles and computer equipment, counterfeiting, money laundering, and piracy of intellectual property. In recent years, Chinese criminal enterprises in North America have been best known for their criminal activities related to Southeast Asian heroin trafficking, alien smuggling and credit card fraud. All of them are global in nature. By utilizing. their worldwide web of criminal contacts, members of Chinese criminal enterprises are able to orchestrate 1) the smuggling of, wholesale quantities of Southeast Asian heroin from the Golden Triangle to North America for distribution, 2) the smuggling of hundreds and thousands of Chinese aliens from China into the United States, and 3) a transnational credit card fraud scheme by using counterfeit credit cards with authentic particulars. Threats of Chinese Criminal Enterprises Chinese criminal enterprises are considered by the U.S. law enforcement agencies to be one of the most difficult Asian crime groups to deal with due to the following factors: 1. National and International Network System Most members of Chinese criminal enterprises immigrated to the West from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, People's Republic of China and other countries in Asia. They have relatives, business and personal friends from their country of origin, as well as friends who immigrated to different countries in the world. They communicate with one another and maintain relationships. Some of them have also consciously built political influence by associating themselves with high-ranking public officials and politicians. It is these kinds of personal and business relationships (guanxi) that form their national and international network systems. By utilizing their long cultivated international network of criminal contacts, the Chinese criminal enterprises are able to organize and carry out sophisticated transnational criminal activities, such as Southeast Asian heroin trafficking, alien smuggling, financial fraud, counterfeiting, and piracy of intellectual property. 2. The Fluid Nature of the Enterprises Many Chinese criminal enterprises are loosely organized poly crime groups, consisting of independent criminal cells operated by influential individuals. Several unknown enterprises can emerge and join forces to conduct specific business ventures. Upon completion of these projects, they dissolve. They will regroup in different configurations or locations for other profit making ventures. Unlike the Godfather in a western organized crime family, a significant crime figure in the Chinese criminal underworld is defined by the size of profits generated from his proliferated illegal business ventures and his influence/power derived from his worldwide web of economic and political connections. 3. Sophistication A number of criminal activities engaged in by Chinese criminal enterprises require a high degree of planning, organization, and coordination. They also require a sophisticated knowledge -- in business, finance and technology. Especially in the international organized crime arena, in addition to a large amount of capital, business connections and technical skills are needed to operate these criminal activities. The credit card fraud scheme which has troubled law enforcement officials in North America and in Europe demonstrates the level of sophistication these Chinese criminals possess. A common credit card fraud scheme involves the making of fake credit cards in Hong Kong and Canada, two of the most notorious centers in the world for the printing of fake credit cards, encoding these fake credit cards with authentic particulars obtained from other people's credit cards which were used in a hotel or a restaurant, and marketing/distributing these fake credit cards throughout North American and Europe. Chinese criminals are quite familiar with the investigative techniques (i.e., wiretaps, undercover agents) and strategies used by the U.S. law enforcement agencies and are innovative in devising methods (i.e., cloned cellular telephones, using codes during telephone conversations) to evade detection by law enforcement officials. Some of these criminals have been observed conducting surveillance against their victims and using counter-surveillance techniques against law enforcement. 4. Mobility Members of Chinese criminal enterprises, taking full advantage of more open national borders, travel frequently to other regions or countries to conduct illegal businesses at a moment's notice. They are restricted neither by the geographical boundaries nor bureaucratic rules. To them, the entire world is a huge money making market where boundaries do not exist. With reduced trade barriers, it is even easier for them to move their base of operation to another country if market conditions there are more favorable, such as more demands for their merchandise, and fewer risks (i.e., lack of law enforcement presence). Wanted Chinese criminals have often fled to countries, such as Cambodia, to evade U.S. law enforcement. "A clever hare shall have three nests" is a motto for Chinese people involving in risky activities. 5. Flexibility and Patience Chinese criminals are industrious entrepreneurs who have to be flexible in order to survive or get ahead. "As a good businessman, one should always have options." They will change their methods of operation and/or their criminal activities based on each situation or project. They are also patient when it comes to protecting an established venture. Ethnic Chinese control a majority of Southeast Asian heroin trafficking businesses in North America. Southeast Asian heroin traffickers employed a wide variety of methods importing a large amount of heroin into Canada and the United States. When it comes to distributing this illegal merchandise, they are extremely cautious and patient. They can sit on the commodity for months until it is absolutely safe to distribute. The same traits, flexibility and patience, are also observed in the operation of alien smuggling. The Chinese "Snake Heads" have used a variety of methods and routes to smuggle aliens from China into the United States. Some aliens would be kept at one location for months before the opportunity was right for transporting the aliens to the next destination. 6. Multilingual Ability Most Chinese criminals know at least two languages well. The most common ones are Chinese-Cantonese, Chinese-Mandarin, Chinese-Fuzhou and Chinese-Minnan, English and Spanish. This language ability provides them with the ability to organize international criminal activities. It also creates a tremendous obstacle to law enforcement agencies in the United States whose Asian language ability is limited. 7. Financial Strength A Chinese criminal project is usually a joint venture which pools the money of several entities together. The profit will be divided among the entities according to a pre-agreed upon percentage. Chinese criminals have long been active in the United States, which is the richest and largest consumer market in the world, offering lucrative opportunities for international criminal enterprises. In the recent decade, Chinese criminals have been exploiting China, which is in the midst of a major economic transition. They understand that China is a huge market for developing legal as well as illegal business ventures. By forming collaborative alliances with corrupted government and law enforcement officials with their financial resources, they are able to further their mutual goals: money and power. Hong Kong is one of the most important centers in the world for laundering "dirty" money. Sophisticated Chinese criminals have profited tremendously by taking advantage of the opportunities these three locations have to offer. They have also diversified their trades to legitimate businesses, such as restaurants, travel agencies, night clubs, jewelry stores, banks, casinos, real estate, etc. Armed with their large sums of capital and shielded by their legitimate front companies, they have continued enriching themselves through their involvement in illegal business ventures with minimum risk. Conclusion The crime problem generated from Chinese criminal enterprises in the United States has been in existence for more than 120 years. Despite the increased effort and many successes on the part of U.S. law enforcement, it has not shown signs of diminishing. Although they are not considered "entrenched organized crime groups" in a traditional sense, when considering the sheer number of ethnic Chinese criminals, the number of their proliferating and innovative criminal activities, their influence on other Asian crime groups, their enormous financial resources, their global personal and business connections, and their longevity in the underworld, Chinese criminal enterprise, as a whole, is a persistent menace to the stability of the society and a continuing challenge for law enforcement agencies in the United States. NOTES 1. Hong Kong Police. 2. Tongs are fraternal organizations established for business, social and cultural purposes. ---------------Ning-Ning Mahlmann, who received her doctorate degree from Georgetown University, is currently the chief of the Language Training & Assessment Unit at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). She has held a variety of increasely responsible posts in the FBI which include Intelligence Operation Specialist, Supervisory Language Specialist, and Supervisory Foreign Language Training Specialist. Dr. Mahlmann has had experiences in the foreign counterintelligence, foreign counter terrorism and criminal investigation fields. She has written and presented extensively in the areas of Asian criminal enterprises. Her publications include: "The Grammatical Competence of a Direct Test and a Semi-Direct Test of Chinese Speaking Proficiency," 1993, Georgetown, and; "Asian Criminal Enterprise Program Overview: A Study of Current FBI Asian Criminal Enterprise Investigations in the United States", 1999, FBI. Excerpts of "Asian Criminal Enterprise Program Overview" reprinted with permission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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