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Police investigate cases of extortion targeting Indo-Canadian businesses

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Toronto: Canadian law enforcement has established a task force to investigate multiple reports of extortion targeting Indo-Canadian businesses.

Abbotsford resident Tanmanjot Gill who was arrested by police on December 9 for targeting a business in Brampton, Greater Toronto Area, Canada. (Credit: Peel Regional Police)
Abbotsford resident Tanmanjot Gill who was arrested by police on December 9 for targeting a business in Brampton, Greater Toronto Area, Canada. (Credit: Peel Regional Police)

In a release issued on Friday, Peel Region Police (PRP) said it was “investigating a disturbing trend of extortion attempts”.

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These are “primarily targeted towards members of our South Asian business community. Victims are contacted through a variety of social media platforms and demands for money are made under threats of violence, which have occurred in some incidents. Nine incidents are currently being investigated”, the release added.

These businesses, according to members of the community, who spoke on condition of anonymity, are owned by Indian-origin proprietors, mostly with roots in Punjab.

As a consequence of the concern within the community, PRP has launched an Extortion Investigative Task Force (EITF), a dedicated team comprised of investigative and intelligence units supported by tactical teams.

“This has caused grave safety and security concerns among our community members,” PRP chief Nishan Duraiappah said.

“Terrorising our residents will not be tolerated and Peel Regional Police will devote the resources to pursue those who are responsible,” he added.

On December 9, PRP arrested 23-year-old Tanmanjot Gill, a resident of Abbotsford in British Columbia, “for discharging a gun and firing multiple rounds at a business” in the town of Brampton in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Officers are looking for a second suspect, described as a South Asian male of medium build.

The public was requested to immediately contact the police if they, their family or their business is targeted with threats of violence to extort money or other valuables. It noted that suspects were using social media platforms to contact victims and perform these illegal acts. They often know the victim’s name, phone number, address and business information, the release added.

The phenomenon does not appear to be limited to the GTA as several businesses also appear to have been targeted recently in British Columbia. Abbotsford Police’s Major Crime Unit is investigating cases involving residents and businesses, a release on December 7 said. Earlier, on November 23, the department said it became “aware of multiple businesses receiving the same letter requesting they pay money in exchange for protection from future violence. The letter cites recent reported events in Abbotsford, yet no connection has been confirmed”.

Preliminary investigation, it said, indicated that these letters may have been “sent en masse to commercial businesses” and were “generic in nature and does not specify the business recipient or indicate a method of payment, contact, or communication”.

The letter, according to community members, threatened businesses to pay up or get a “bullet” , adding they could be targeted even in India as, it said, “we have links all over”.

These extortion attempts have underscored concerns over transnational gangs, with links to India, operating in Canada.

On November 23, the Surrey detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) also stated that it had “become aware of extortions targeting business owners throughout the Lower Mainland and is encouraging anyone who may be a victim to call police”.

“If you are a business owner in Surrey and have received any threats either directly or indirectly, we strongly encourage you to call Surrey RCMP,” the unit’s media relation officer Corporal Sarbjit Sangha said.

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