The Chinese advance in the North-East between subcontractors, fakes and the black economy

The petrol of recycling is black and the underground Chinese economy has its strong point in the Triveneto: laboratory of the silk road of recycling but also of the establishment of an irregular economy. They know something about the chair district of Friuli. In this industrial area of ​​the north-east between the municipalities of Manzano, San Giovanni al Natisone and Corno di Rosazzo which, in the nineties, enriched the territory by producing 30 percent of the wooden seats sold worldwide, everyone knew how to recognize in the anonymous warehouses of the first Chinese companies in the area the noise of guns that continuously fired points at the seats even in the middle of the night. And in the morning it was from there, from the workshops managed by the Chinese outside any contractual rule, that the pieces ordered the night before came out. A continuous cycle production that no other entrepreneur, sent home the staff at the end of the day, could have guaranteed to the most demanding of customers. Thus began the coup de grace to an economy that was already tested after the crash of the financial markets of 2008, even in the thriving north-east.


A coup de grace arrived from the East about ten years ago, with the offer of contractors willing to put their manpower at the service of local companies. The advantage was mathematical, for both, given that in the face of the four hours per day recorded in the pay slip, the workers were forced to work impossible shifts, including holidays, and the expenses, those so deliberately high, of food and lodging were withheld. The result, despite the police operations that, since then, have opened more than a few sheds, is in the data with which the Confartigianato Udine Study Office, year after year, certifies the exponential increase of companies in the Chinese-run district: in 2021, in the wood-furniture supply chain, they are now one in ten.


«Demographic changes are part of the evolution. Today it’s the Chinese, tomorrow who knows. The important thing is that the rules are respected. We have always operated in the open, paying taxes and contributions and ensuring safety conditions in the workplace. If my neighbor doesn’t do it and this allows him to pay half the employee, then the competition becomes unfair, ”says Giusto Maurig, former district president.


Exactly what one judicial investigation after another continues to prove. It was the protests of the mayors of the municipalities of the chair triangle, in the past, that pushed the labor inspectorate and the police to turn on the lights on the Chinatown of the wood, with its dormitories, the exploitation of labor and the evasive mechanism of companies “Open and close”, common in Friuli as well as in Veneto, from the furniture district of Casale di Scodosia, in the province of Padua, to the textile area of ​​the Treviso area. Three years of life are enough to defraud the tax authorities: in the first, the company presents an unfaithful declaration, with non-existent costs that allow it to not pay taxes, in the second it omits it completely and, in the third, it disappears together with the owner, passing the witness to a new activity and to another director, obviously linked to the previous one. A no-brainer, especially when you have a network of figureheads and almost infinite reserves of money. The case of a textile laboratory in the province of Vicenza that from 1998 to 2021 managed to open and close the VAT number 16 times is emblematic.


«The first was made out to the real owner, the following ones, in rotation, to his employees. And without ever turning over the utilities “, General Bruno Buratti, commander of Finance of north-eastern Italy, recently told the press, underlining the ease with which nowadays it is possible to manage turnover, shielding and migration from an activity code to the other with a simple click on the computer.

The investigation

There is a river of black money that goes from Italy to China


A “mass phenomenon”, as he defined it, which is paired with the no less pernicious business of fake made in Italy. It happens everywhere, but in a symbolic city like Venice, where Chinese-led leather goods and souvenir shops are multiplying visibly, discovering that so many goods are fake hurts even more. “In 2020, in Triveneto we seized 23 million pieces on the street, including clothing, toys and masks”, recalled General Buratti. Then, however, upon the appeal of the Revenue, those same owners are almost always null. In Veneto alone, the tax debts of over 8,000 Chinese registered in the role have exceeded 2 billion euros, of which just 2.6 per cent so far collected. Not to mention the black accumulated with the management of groups of tourists. Proof of this is the millionaire turnover discovered in 2019 by investigating a Chinese travel agency that ran swarms of compatriots from the island of Murano to the Grand Canal, to entice them to spend and thus collect the commissions from glassmakers, gondoliers and restaurateurs to whom he had directed them. Staggering figures, 31 million euros moved between 2014 and 2015, for a total of about 4 million submerged, at the rate of 1300 visitors a day, to the detriment of the local economy.
From Pordenone, the president of Confindustria Alto Adriatico, Michelangelo Agrusti, has long been calling for caution.


Among the first and the few to express reservations about the memorandum signed by the first Conte government with President Xi Jinping in 2019, he considered the entry of China Merchants Port Holdings into the logistics platform of the Port of Trieste dangerous. The growing tensions between the US and China advised Italian companies to make an agreement with the Hamburg HHLA, opening a German window on the Adriatic and blocking the way for the Dragon. But the warning is still valid.


“The” Belt and Road Initiative “is a strategic plan to conquer a country that has already shopped for companies, even small ones as long as they are strategic, and which, with its expansion, represents a threat to the industrial sovereignty of the West”, says Agrusti, which is now looking with renewed apprehension at the possible agreement that HHLA itself seems willing to close with the Cosco group, the Beijing state company already employed for the acquisition of Piraeus. Negotiations that at the moment do not worry those who, at the Port Authority of Trieste, follow the compass of the Draghi government.


“We have nothing to fear. Today in Trieste we work with everyone, from the Swiss to the Indonesians, and the Chinese are missing. We do not need anyone’s money and making analogies with the port of Athens, that is, with a weak territory, is not correct: here there are ideas and strategies and those who want to get on board are welcome. But it will only be able to do so on our terms, ”said President Zeno D’Agostino. For the silk road, the Triveneto is a fundamental hub for getting Chinese goods to Europe. And it is also a hub for the black economy and for recycling.


Source: L'Espresso – News, inchieste e approfondimenti Espresso by espresso.repubblica.it.

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