Rome, Italy: Italian police said Friday they had raided nine premises as part of an investigation into a Chinese criminal gang they suspect of being behind a spate of attacks on North Africans.
The raids were carried out in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to one of the biggest Chinese communities in Europe and a booming textiles industry that is notorious for sweatshop exploitation.
The individuals being investigated are all linked to a Chinese cultural association "The City of the White Stag" and are also suspected of preying on law-abiding Chinese businesses.
Friday's raids were carried out under warrants issued for criminal association and commissioning racially motivated violence.
A police statement said the head of the White Stag group had organised vigilante style patrols in Prato as part of a protection racket which had led to attacks on Arab immigrants with no criminal connections.
The raids followed clashes between police and some 300 Chinese on Wednesday evening after a health-and-safety inspection of a Chinese-owned textile factory in Sesto Fiorentino, a suburb of Florence that is close to Prato.
The mini-riot was sparked after an altercation between officers and an elderly Chinese man who was stopped leaving the factory with a baby in his arms, according to local reports. Four policemen and three workers were injured in the scuffles.