• Saturday, February 24, 2024

Business

Five Indian-origin people held in Canada for targeting South Asian traders

The authorities became active last December following a wave of South Asian business owners reporting threats of violence against them and their families if they didn’t pay money, according to Canadian report.

India and Canada flags (iStock)

By: Shubham Ghosh

A SPECIALIZED Canadian police task force has apprehended five individuals, including two women of Indian descent, for suspected extortion and firearm-related crimes targeting the South Asian business community in the Greater Toronto area.

The Peel Regional Police Extortion Investigative Task Force (EITF), with assistance from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), conducted a search warrant leading to the arrest of four individuals: Gagan Ajit Singh (23), Anmoldeep Singh (23), Hashmeet Kaur (25), Iyamjot Kaur (21), and Arundeep Thind (39), as detailed in a press release from the Peel Regional Police on Wednesday (7).

Among them, Gagan Ajit Singh, Hashmeet Kaur and Iyamjot Kaur are residents of Brampton, while Anmoldeep Singh resides in Mississauga. They face charges including extortion, unauthorised possession of firearms, possession of prohibited or restricted weapons, and fraud, among other offenses.

Read: South Asian businesses in Canada hit by extortion threats

The fifth suspect, Arundeep Thind, has no fixed address and has been charged with extortion.

The Peel Regional Police launched the EITF last December in response to a wave of South Asian business owners reporting threats of violence against them and their families if they didn’t pay money, according to a CBC News report.

Read: President Museveni hails South Asians’ contributions to Uganda’s growth

Superintendent Shelley Thompson, who heads the unit, at a news conference on Wednesday, said a total of 24 charges have been laid in relation to the 29 extortion attempts under investigation. Thompson said in nine of those instances, guns were fired at unoccupied businesses, according to the Toronto Star newspaper.

However, no injuries were reported in connection with the shootings. She further said the targeted businesses vary but include restaurants and bakeries, trucking and transport companies and independent used car dealerships, all with South Asian owners. Explaining the modus operandi, Thompson said the owners were contacted either by phone, social media apps or video calling services like WhatsApp. The financial demands varied from victim to victim, Thompson said, but the perpetrators would always ask for either cash or money transfers of Canadian dollars or Indian rupees.

Similar extortion attempts are under investigation by law enforcement in Edmonton, the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and several jurisdictions in the US, she said. She said the Peel task force is in touch with police services in all of those locations, as well as with the police agencies in India.

“There is currently no information to suggest that the extortion attempts in Peel are connected to wider Indian organised crime,” Thompson said, adding that such a possibility is being actively investigated.

“One of the reasons we are doing this (news conference) is to put it out there to the community that we are looking for information,” she said. The investigators believe there are likely more victims.

(With PTI inputs)

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