Canada: Police forms national team to investigate extortion cases targeting South Asians

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A national team of police forces has been formed in Canada to coordinate investigation and information sharing about extortion cases targeting South Asian people and businesses, Canada-based Global News reported. The new Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) National Coordination and Support Team is working with police departments in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta. It’s not leading their investigations, but promoting “seamless sharing of information and intelligence,” RCMP said in a Thursday news release.

“The team is looking at all similarities and motivations as well as reports that these incidents are associated with organized crime groups,” team lead and Superintendent Adam MacIntosh said in the release. This comes as in the past few months, South Asian people in cities across the three provinces have reported receiving letters, phone calls or social media messages in which demands are made under threats of violence.

Local police and the RCMP warned in November last year, that a gang allegedly having roots in India is circulating disturbing letters and demanding USD 2 million in “protection money” in the Abbotsford city in British Columbia, according to the Global News. Recipients of the letters were given a month to comply or face retaliation — warned that if they went to the police, there would be “no more letter only bullet.” Investigators linked those threatening letters to shots fired at a home in White Rock on December 4.

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Global News cited an internal Abbotsford police memo that described extortion involving shootings at the homes of two families and arson at an Abbotsford business. “The suspects are believed to be associated with the Lawrence Bishnoi gang based in India,” the memo said, adding that the extortion appears to target affluent members of the South Asian community.

Notably, quite soon after this, a shooting incident occurred on December 27, targeting the house of Vedic Hindu Cultural Society President’s son in British Columbia. The President hosted a public safety forum to discuss the ongoing threats. The next day, Surrey RCMP arrested two men in their 20s in connection with extortion attempts in the Lower Mainland. However, they were released without charge pending further investigation, Global News reported.