Triad societies and Chinese organised crime in South Africa


Since the 1970s, Chinese criminal groups have been engaged in activities such as the illegal trading in shark fins and rhino horn. In the 1980s, this extended to the harvesting and export of abalone, the importation of counterfeit goods and trafficking in illegal immigrants. When South Africa’s law enforcement agencies moved towards investigating organised crime, the picture of Chinese organised criminal groups with links to the Triad societies of China and Taiwan became clearer. These groups also branched out into serious crimes such as drug-trafficking, prostitution, money-laundering, fraud and kidnapping. Police work has been hampered by, among others, the difficulty of infiltrating Chinese criminal groups and the lack of a dedicated investigation unit.

About the author

Peter Gastrow, (B Com, LLB), practised as an advocate before being elected to the South African parliament where he focused on policing, justice and defence issues. In 1993, while serving as a member of the National Peace Secretariat and the Police Board, he was awarded a Fellowship by the United States Institute for Peace. Prior to the 1994 election, he chaired the Sub-Council on Law, Order and Security of the Transitional Executive Council. He joined the ISS in November 1997 as head of its Cape Town office after spending three years as special adviser to the Minister for Safety and Security.


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