Leaders of the Indian community in Surrey are uniting to address a growing concern over the alarming surge in extortion threats and violence targeting Indian business owners. In a bid to address the community’s fears and discuss the current law and order situation, the Vedic Hindu Cultural Society of British Columbia is organizing a public forum set to take place on Saturday.
The urgency for such a gathering arises in the aftermath of a shooting incident on December 27, which appeared to deliberately target the residence of the society’s president’s son. Although Satish Kumar’s son emerged unharmed, bullet holes in his property in Newton-area have left the community on edge.
Speaking on behalf of the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir temple, Satish Kumar expressed the widespread fear gripping the community. “A lot of people got phone calls and letters… I heard some people already gave them the money too,” Kumar revealed, underscoring the deep-rooted terror that has enveloped the region.
The extortion threats, warned about by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), have created a palpable sense of insecurity among Indian business owners. The recent shooting incident targeting Kumar’s family home and the subsequent arrests announced by Surrey RCMP have failed to assuage the fears prevalent in the community.
This recent wave of extortion threats is not an isolated incident. In November, warnings from both Abbotsford and the RCMP highlighted disturbing letters circulating, allegedly from an “Indian gang,” demanding protection money. Those who received the letters were given a month to comply or face retaliation, with a chilling warning that if they approached the police, bullets would replace letters.
The investigators have traced these threatening letters to a series of violent incidents, including the December 4 shooting in White Rock. The tactics employed in these extortion schemes bear a resemblance to organized crime groups in the Punjab region, according to Global News.
A Surrey businessman, who chose to remain anonymous, recounted receiving a voice mail demanding payment, followed by missed calls and ultimately gunshots targeting his residence. Initially dismissing it as a prank, the victim later engaged with the extortionists, only to find the threats were real and pervasive.
Police in at least 3 provinces, including here in #yeg, are dealing with similar cases of extortion targeting South Asian business owners — a tactic they say is common amongst criminals in the Indian state of Punjab.— Global Edmonton (@GlobalEdmonton) January 5, 2024
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The police are currently involved in multi-jurisdictional investigations across British Columbia, with similar extortion schemes reported in Ontario and Alberta. The Abbotsford Police’s major crime unit is actively looking into the matter, connecting the threats to a gang based in India, led by Lawrence Bishnoi. The suspects, primarily Hindi-speaking, use WhatsApp to threaten violence after demanding significant sums of money.
While Surrey RCMP announced arrests on December 28 related to extortion attempts, the individuals were subsequently released pending charges from British Columbia’s Prosecution Service. In Edmonton, where 18 incidents related to the alleged extortion scheme targeting the South Asian business community are under investigation, police have made recent arrests.
Edmonton police revealed that failure to comply with extortion demands has resulted in arson and property damage, specifically targeting new home builds and show homes. At least seven arson cases in Edmonton in the last two months of 2023 have been linked to the investigation, with suspects making follow-up demands, leading to an escalation of violence and drive-by shootings.
As the Indian community in Surrey grapples with this growing menace, the public forum aims to foster dialogue, share concerns, and seek solutions to ensure the safety and well-being of its members. The community leaders and law enforcement agencies face a collective challenge in restoring a sense of security and combating the rising tide of violence and extortion.