Reports last month of a new probe into the 30-year-old unsolved murder of a Chinese businessman in Glasgow brought back memories of a bygone age.

As the awe of Chinese economic might has grown, triad violence in Glasgow seems to have fallen off the radar. But a trawl of the archives reveals that a couple of decades ago local newspaper the Daily Record was alarmed by the criminal goings-on in Garnethill, the Scottish city's Chinatown.

"The triads trade in fear. And traitors are swallowed up by the jaws of the dragon," the tabloid wrote in 1996, of a triad recruitment drive. Readers may be amused by the colourful way the Daily Record used to report criminal activity in Garnethill but - while the paper did perhaps sensationalise matters - the log of turf battles and tit-for-tat choppings spoke for itself.

The killing of Philip Wong on October 9, 1985, is one of the city's most gruesome cold cases. The 48-year-old businessman was hacked to death on Rose Street, in Garnethill, by three men armed with machetes, having just left the mahjong gambling den that he ran.

It is believed Wong, a father of three and a leading light among Glasgow's then 5,000-strong Chinese community, acted as a "white paper fan", or business adviser, for the Shui Fong triad group in Britain. He was hit after refusing to trade a share of his Chinese video rental business with the Wo Shing Wo triad group.

There were suspects in the case but they were never traced; investigations were hampered by a lack of information from the local Chinese, who feared reprisals. Police Scotland are now reviewing existing evidence and appealing for new information.

Triads emerged in Scotland in the 1970s, following the arrival of Chinese families in the 60s. Triad activities tended to include loan-sharking, protection, counterfeiting, prostitution, drug trafficking, gambling and people smuggling. Reports from around the time of Hong Kong's 1997 handover to China indicate a degree of British trepidation about triad activity increasing - but the feared influx of "soldiers" seemingly never materialised.

Graeme Pearson, the Scottish Labour Party's justice spokesman and a former police chief who knew Wong, however, says the triads' relative absence from the media in recent years doesn't mean they've disappeared.

"There's a wider range of ethnic gangs in the UK now, but what's also true is that criminal activity in Chinese communities now only shows itself in isolated moments when violence spills out.

"I would suspect triads here are focused on growing cannabis and moving counterfeit goods - possibly legal highs," he says.

Indeed, in 2012, the British authorities warned that triads were flooding Scotland with fake tobacco, sent into the country in small parcels marked "prawn crackers" and "fortune cookies". Profits from the £10 million (HK$120 million) trade reportedly fund other triad crimes in Scotland, such as the growing of cannabis.