Extortion scam common in India targeting South Asian communities including Brampton business


Published January 5, 2024 at 3:56 pm

brampton shooting suspect armed
Peel police are looking to identify a possibly armed man after a Brampton business was shot up in Brampton. (Photo: Peel Regional Police)

Police agencies in three provinces are warning of an extortion scam popular in India that is targeting members of Canada’s South Asian communities, including an incident that saw a business shot up in Brampton.

The scam starts with a phone call or social media message from fraudsters demanding money, and in some cases has escalated to violence.

Peel Regional Police said in December that there had been at least nine incidents under an extortion investigation, including one that saw gunshots fired at a business near Rutherford Road South and Clark Boulevard in Brampton.

A businessman from Metro Vancouver, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Canadian press his home was also targeted and shot up in a similar scam.

At first, it seemed like a “prank” of some kind, and he didn’t take the calls seriously, but the man called the would-be extortionists back.

“We see that you’re doing well in business, so you need to pay us,” they told him.

Police in at least three provinces are dealing with similar investigations of extortion schemes targeting business owners in South Asian communities – a tactic investigators say is commonly employed by organized crime groups in the Indian state of Punjab.

RCMP Cpl. Sarbjit Sangha said these types of extortion attempts involving people seeking “protection money” from business owners are common in India, and police “believe that the same element has raised its head in Canada.”

“They are trying to create a fear in the business community and they’re only targeting people who they know are well off and they have the money,” she said.

Sangha said people who receive these threats should call police in their home jurisdiction “immediately,” and “not give in to any demands that are asked by these individuals, whether they’re asking for money or anything else.

Peel police have launched an Extortion Investigative Task Force following the shooting incident and the arrest of a 23-year-old man from Abbotsford.

Police are still looking for a second person linked to the shooting, described as a South Asian man of medium build wearing a grey sweatshirt at the time of the incident. He later changed into a black sweatshirt with a white X on the back, police said

If you see him, police say to call 911 and not to approach the suspect as he may be armed.

On Dec. 28, Surrey RCMP arrested two people they said are connected with extortion attempts, but the pair was released while charges are considered by the BC Prosecution Service.

And on Jan. 3, police in Edmonton announced that they’re investigating 18 extortion incidents in the region that they believe are tied to a series of arsons and drive-by shootings.

Edmonton Police said this week that six young males have been arrested in connection with the extortion attempts, shootings and arsons, and they are looking for another potential suspect in a Dec. 29 arson case.

Surrey-based Hindu temple president Satish Kumar said his own son’s family home was targeted by gunfire late last month. Kumar, president of Surrey’s Lakshmi Narayan Mandir temple, said he and his family members haven’t received any extortion calls or letters, but the escalating violence has people on edge.

For the Metro Vancouver business owner still grappling with the shooting at his home, the incident has rattled him and he’s encouraging attendance at the upcoming forum in Surrey.

“My children are afraid, my mom and dad are very afraid, you know, they don’t want me leaving the house,” he said.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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