3 Chinese convicted in Italian factory fire that killed 7

AP News
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Posted: Jan 12, 2015 12:37 PM

PRATO, Italy (AP) — An Italian court on Monday convicted a Chinese garment manufacturer and two Chinese managers of manslaughter in a 2013 factory fire that killed seven people in the Tuscan city of Prato.

Judge Silvia Isidori also read out sentences for the defendants. The stiffest sentence, eight years and eight months, went to Lin You Lan, the owner of the Teresa Moda factory, which churned out cheap clothes in the largely Chinese manufacturing district in Tuscany. Two factory managers, Lin Youli, and her husband, Hu Xiaoping, received sentences of six years and 10 months, and 6 ½ years, respectively.

The fire exposed the pursuit of profit over safety in Italy. Prosecutors alleged the factory's fire exit was blocked by piles of flammable fabric; the defense disputed that.

The three defendants were also convicted of exploiting clandestine labor and failing to use safety measures.

For years, thousands of Chinese migrants have been smuggled into Italy, often to find work at factories that ignore basic safety standards. Police investigations found that billions of euros in wages earned were smuggled to China over the last few years.

The fire spurred Italian authorities to beef up safety standards enforcement. Italian authorities have raided nearly 2,000 Chinese factories over the last several years, closing more than 900 for safety and labor violations. The factories have generally thrived even as Italy's economy lags.

More than 40,000 Chinese live in Prato, some 15,000 illegally, authorities say. The area has one of the highest concentrations of Chinese in Europe.