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Extortion schemes targeting South Asian businesses in Canada linked to crime groups

[Source]

A series of extortion attempts targeting South Asian businesses since October 2023 has led to at least 14 arrests across Canada, with incidents linked to organized crime.

Key details: Extortion threats have surfaced in various cities in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, with at least five policing jurisdictions currently investigating 74 related incidents or cases. Perpetrators are reportedly using physical letters, phone calls and social media apps to demand “protection money” primarily from South Asian business owners. Those who refused to comply have suffered gunfire or arson attacks.

RCMP national team: In January, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown and Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke expressed concerns to Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc regarding the rise of such threats, emphasizing the need for a coordinated response across jurisdictions. Subsequently, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced in February the establishment of a national team to coordinate investigations regarding the schemes.

The investigation: According to RCMP Supt. Adam MacIntosh, the team is looking into similarities and motivations behind the threats, which are believed to be linked to organized crime groups. Peel police in Toronto noted that while the attacks are predominantly targeting the South Asian community, they are also carried out by members of the same community.

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Possible motivations: According to MacIntosh, it is possible that the attacks are tied to geopolitical tensions related to India and the Khalistan separatist movement, along with potential international connections. Law enforcement also suggests that the ease of executing the threats through a simple phone call has led to a proliferation of copycat incidents, complicating the investigation and resulting in an unprecedented surge in violence.

Advice from police: Police strongly advise against paying extortion demands, as it only escalates the problem and results in recurring demands. MacIntosh encourages victims to come forward, expressing concerns that some incidents may have gone unreported.

 

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