Agence France-Presse report that Italian police have seized approximately 800,000 fake luxury watches worth 10 million Euros from a shop run by five Chinese nationals in the textile town of Prato, south of Bologna. As well as finding unfinished replicas of Dolce & Gabbana, Rolex, Omega, Patek Philippe and Mont Blanc watches brought from China, police also seized real estate, a car, three computers and watch-making equipment.
Since the beginning of the year, several such workshops have been closed down. Last June, a watchmaking workshop set up in a private apartment was targeted by the Guardia di Finanza police force, who seized 200,000 watches and watch components which were in the process of being marked and assembled. Watchmaking tools, punches and machines were also seized, and there were four successful convictions leading to custodial sentences obtained as a result of that police operation.
An industrial suburb of Florence situated in the centre of Italy, the city of Prato has a population of 180,000. One of its distinctive features is a large Chinese population estimated at 45,000 people, mostly working in the textile industry, many in illegal workshops and under appalling conditions, with some working up to 18 hours a day. Most of them come from the city of Wenzhou in the province of Zhejiang, just south of Shanghai, itself a textile manufacturing region. Legal Chinese residents in Prato on 31 December 2008 were 9,927. Local authorities estimate the number of Chinese citizens living in Prato to be around 45,000.